When President Benigno Noynoy Aquino assumed office, one of his promises was to help the poor. Aquino ordered the DSWD or the Department of Social Welfare and Development to continue giving those 500 peso doleouts to the poorest of the poor. He admits that he expects his ratings to remain high among the poor coz, hey, his giving them money to at least tide them over.
And yes, he also appointed one of his trusted men at the helm of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office or PCSO. The PCSO, for those who don’t know, is an important part of a poor Filipino family’s life. If someone is sick, the poor always goes to the PCSO for help. The PCSO can assist a poor guy and give him as much as 250,000 pesos to pay for his hospitalization and medicines.
Now, here comes Margarita Juico or “Margie” for short. She’s the wife of Philip “Popoy” Juico, who once shot into national prominence for being very close to former president Cory Aquino. Juico once headed the Philippine Sports Commission, and he’s known for other things, according to some people.
For one, the Juicos reportedly gave 5 million pesos to Aquino during the elections. That earned them the right to “acquire” the PCSO.
When Margie assumed the PCSO chairmanship, according to former Chairman Manoling Morato, she immediately ordered the board to quickly pass a resolution transfering the PCSO offices from its traditional home to the Philippine International Convention Center or PICC. Since the 1930’s, the 6.5 hectare Quezon Institute property has been home to the PCSO. The charitable agency had a 50 year lease agreement with the QI, giving just 2 million pesos to finance the operations of the institute and in exchange, using the property almost “rent-free”.
The transfer was done in haste, says Morato, because one of Mel Lopez sons’ Alex Lopez, a colleague of Margie’s husband Philip Juico, just bought the 6.5 hectare property. Lopez reportedly had a backer inside the PCSO, an official whom Morato said, expects to be rewarded for his generosity (or treachery, if Morato is to be believed). That official expects to receive three condominium units from the cluster of high-rise condominium buildings Alex Lopez intends to build in the historical site.
Morato, however, cuts himself short, and deins not to accuse Margie of directly benefiting from the sale.
Morato also said the former PCSO board left US$ 5 million in savings at the Landbank. That money already earned US$ 6 million in interests. The PCSO also gets 30 billion pesos in earnings from its lotto and sweepstakes operations.
Those monies were deposited in government banks, in deference to the law. What Margie Juico did, was transfer those monies to UCPB, a private bank, austensibly when officials of the ailing bank dangled a higher interest rate. Reasonable yes, legal, absolutely no!
And now here comes Margie telling the poor that the reason why the PCSO cannot give them any more money is the fact that it’s bankrupt! The PCSO reportedly is bankrupt by about 2 billion pesos. And she accuses the Arroyo board for causing its bankruptcy.
How can that be, says Morato, when Margie Juico, was also one of the board directors appointed by Arroyo. She now accuses the former board of indiscretions because the PCSO operating fund is being drained of its resources precisely because of paying that humongous rent with the PICC. That operating fund gets only 15% from the annual revenue of 30 billion.
The PCSO, adds Morato, is also being mismanaged, due to the Juicos. Philip Juico controls the agency’s PR fund, while Margie’s brother Emmet Penson, supplies wheelchairs. Margie and Popoy’s son Vincent is now Margie’s chief of staff, getting a high-paying salary from the agency. That’s nepotism, says Morato.
And why is it that the Palace does not know about these alleged “sins” by the Juicos? Her son, Joseph, who happens to be a councilor of Quezon City and a close friend of Executive secretary Paquito Ochoa, holds office at Ochoa’s place in Malacanang, with a one peso a year salary. His job? Screen information that would harm his family’s interests, according to Morato.
So now, the PCSO is left in the lurch. Thousands of poor folks wait their turn, and when it comes, comes home empty handed. Even the PCSO, the last refuge of the poor for help, has been effectively politicized and even made as a fiefdom by Aquino’s men. That’s the price the Filipino people pay for an Aquino presidency.