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DOJ to lead task force vs illegal online gaming, anomalies in STL ops

MANILA, Jan. 15 (PNA) -- The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Sunday said it will lead the task force that would crack down on illegal online gaming casinos and will also go after tax liabilities of small town lottery (STL).

This was bared by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered him to investigate non-payment or underpayment of taxes in STL operations nationwide and run after those who are liable for these activities.

Aguirre said the President wants to get a higher percentage of revenues from STL, a numbers game meant to curb the illegal 'jueteng' after finding out that only 10 to 15 percent of the total revenues are remitted to the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) during the previous administration.

He noted that the government loses billions in revenues in these STL operations and President Duterte wants to make sure that all collections will be remitted to PCSO because he wants to use these STL proceeds to fund free medicines for the people.

"Kasi gusto niya, diyan siya kumuha ng pang-gamot na ibibigay niya ng libre sa mga mamamayang Pilipino," he told reporters said in recent press briefing.

As mandated by its charter, the PCSO is the primary government agency tasked with "raising and providing for funds for health programs, medical assistance and services and charities of national character." It sets aside 30 percent of its revenues for a charity fund for health programs and charities.

The Task Force is headed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea which would empower the task force to look into allegations that these online gaming casinos from economic zones have been depriving the government trillion of pesos in lost revenues annually based on President Duterte’s estimates.

”The task force created more than two months ago, consisting of (Executive Secretary Salvador) Medialdea, (Finance) Sec. Sonny Dominguez met with PCSO officials on how to increase the its income from Small Town Lottery. The IRR was issued increasing the minimum remittance of the STL operators, resulting to unprecedented high collections in the first few months of operations under Dutere administration,” he explained.

Aguirre admitted that his assignment was already given by President Duterte few months ago, but was only delayed because he focused on illegal online gaming operations following the raid on illegal online casino of Chinese gaming mogul Jack Lam in Clark Field, Pampanga.

His assignment on STL was further sidestepped by the controversy involving alleged PHP50-million extortion by Bureau of Immigration officials on Lam for the release of 1,316 illegal Chinese workers arrested in Lam's Fontana Leisure Park and Casino last November.

Aguirre said former police chief superintendent Wally Sombero, who supposedly served as Lam's middleman, was actually a resource person of the DOJ on the STL issue.

The PCSO earlier said it is set to release stricter implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for STL operations to finally put an end to jueteng.

There are only 18 authorized agent corporations all over the country accredited for STL operations. (PNA)

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