WATCH | Roque on PCSO’s P6-M Xmas party: Palace will look into it

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MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte will most likely look into the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office’s (PCSO) P6-million Christmas party, which recently appointed PCSO board member Sandra Cam had said she boycotted because it was “inappropriate”, according to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

“I think you know that the President does not tolerate extravagance,” Roque said in a press briefing on Thursday.

“I’m sure the President will look into the matter. As you know, he is very sensitive to what is reported by his own people in the different branches of government,” he added.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer had earlier reported Cam as saying the “very grandiose party” was held on Tuesday at the Edsa Shangri-La’s Isla Ballroom.

However, according to the same Inquirer report, PCSO general manager Alexander Balutan had pointed out that the Department of Budget and Management had approved an original budget of P14 million for the party, and that the PCSO made do with P6 million. Almost half of the P6 million, he was quoted as saying, went to raffle and performance prizes for the employees.

Balutan was quoted in the PDI as saying that given the 1,500 employees they had to accommodate, they had to find a big venue such as the Isla Ballroom in the EDSA Shangri-La Hotel.

The money saved would go to the calamity fund for provinces affected by Tropical Storm Urduja.

Earlier, PCSO announced that it was making P10 million available initially for the needs of Urduja victims.

“We initially approved the immediate release of P10 million to buy for medicines and water for the typhoon victims. We have a yearly calamity fund of P100 million approved by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for natural and man-made disasters. For 2017, we’ve more than P95 million left. So we can use that for the typhoon victims,” PCSO General Manager Alexander Balutan said in a statement last Dec. 19.

Balutan said he will also recommend to the board to forego a portion of the budget for the Yuletide fellowship of PCSO employees to buy medicines, water and that can be used also to defray the hospitalization expenses of individuals injured from the typhoon.

“We immediately come to the aid of calamity victims and this is our priority as a charitable government agency,” Balutan said.

Balutan recently led the opening of the PCSO’s branch office in Biliran — which turned out to be among the worst-hit by Urduja — to bring closer to the people Duterte’s free medical services and health programs.

Aside Biliran, Balutan said there are also PCSO branch offices in Tacloban City, Leyte; Calbayog City in Western Samar; Maasin City, Southern Leyte; and Catarman, Northern Samar where people in dire need can go to seek financial medical assistance. Branches in typhoon-affected provinces were told to open their offices 24 hours a day to deliver medical services to victims.

According to its website, PCSO serves as the principal government agency for raising and providing funds for health programs, medical assistance and services, and charities.

It conducts “charity sweepstakes, races, and lotteries and engages in health and welfare-related investments, projects, and activities to provide for permanent and continuing sources of funds for its programs.”