MANILA, January 8, 2003 (STAR) By Perseus Echeminada - The word war raging at the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) between its chairman Ma. Livia "Honey Girl" de Leon and board member Jose "Linggoy" Alcuaz has taken a new twist, after some 1,600 managers and employees of PCSO sought Alcuaz’s immediate ouster.

The managers and employees, irked by what they called "baseless allegations" against De Leon and claims that their cost-of-living allowance (COLA) was illegal, have signed a manifesto urging President Arroyo to sack Alcuaz for tainting the PCSO’s image.

The COLA, according to Alcuaz, was given to employees in the form of gift checks instead of cash, without a board resolution authorizing the use of gift checks.

Employees earlier walked out of last Monday’s flag-raising ceremony when Alcuaz began to address them .

"We cannot allow Alcuaz to meddle in our legal benefits," a PCSO official told The STAR, adding that what is at stake is their "daily survival."

The manifesto was signed by employees from 22 departments as well as the president of the 1,500-strong PCSO employees’ union. The document alleged that Alcuaz’s accusations against De Leon are baseless and have generated negative publicity that may have eroded the public trust which the agency built over the years.

"The PCSO, being a gaming business mandated to raise revenue for medical, health and charitable projects and undertakings for the national government, has always been solicitous (in maintaining) its integrity in all its external and internal transactions," the manifesto said.

The manifesto, which was sent to Malacañang, said the baseless allegations against De Leon have greatly affected the working relationship in the PCSO board.

The PCSO, according to the manifesto, cannot afford to have a "loose cannon" which can severely hamper operations.

Upon learning of the manifesto, Alcuaz said he will file charges with the Office of the Ombudsman and let every employee refund the P12,000 COLA given to them.

Alcuaz also clarified that his PCSO exposé last Thursday on alleged anomalies at the agency was not planned, as he is still compiling documents to support these allegations.

During the press conference, Alcuaz said De Leon and former PCSO general manager Virgilio Angelo mismanaged the agency.

De Leon said Alcuaz’s allegations are "all lies, just a product of his imagination," and added that his exposé was triggered by his failure to get the post vacated by Angelo.

De Leon said her lawyers are reviewing video footage of Alcuaz’s press conference and statements made by him for possible filing of a multimillion-peso damage suit.

Alcuaz earlier said that De Leon and some members of the board called a meeting last Dec. 23 at the Mandarin Hotel without notifying him. He alleged that they passed a resolution approving a P600-million contract with a favored supplier of sweepstakes tickets without public bidding.

He also accused De Leon and Angelo of mismanagement, resulting in the alleged failure of the agency to perform its charity mandate.

Alcuaz said while the PCSO is earning huge revenues from the online lotto operations, millions of pesos of its funds for charity failed to reach its intended beneficiaries because of red tape in the agency.

While the law provides that the government must act within 15 days on requests for assistance from indigent patients, Alcuaz said it takes a long time before financial assistance is extended to the patient.

Alcuaz also accused De Leon of delaying the implementation of the P600-million ambulance purchase program, and the disbursement of P282 million for the "Ospital ni Erap" program and another P282 million in hospital equipment meant for the Philippine National Police. – With Romel Bagares

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