31 January 2008

Pastoral Bulletin 1, s. 2008: Gambling in Legazpi

This is Legazpi's latest "issue". And the diocese's first pastoral bulletin this year. The first two paragraphs have already became moot since it turned out the "certificate of no objection" was not required of Play Planet, the gambling operator, by the PAGCOR.

It was an "if then-else" requirement. If there is an existing city ordinance banning a gambling operation within 200 meters of schools and/or churches, a certificate of no objection would have to be secured from the city council. Else, only a "certificate of no ordinance" is needed. There is no city ordinance to such effect.

It turned out the public hearing conducted by the concerned committees of the city council was not necessary at all. Waste of time for them maybe, though not so much for us. It got us informed and interested about this seemingly innocuous business request.

Since Play Planet will most likely be granted a permit by PAGCOR, the next stop will be for them to secure a business permit from the city mayor. And we will be ready for that.

Bingo, however, turned out to be a "lesser" issue. A few meters away and a block across away, while the Legazpi City Council was on session, the Albay Provincial Board was also conducting its regular session. Among its agenda was the entry of Small Town Lottery (STL), another nice legal trickery concocted by the present dispensation that effectively "legalized jueteng" and instantly provided a legal cover to jueteng's continued operations by gambling lords.

Marx obviously knew not enough about gambling. Otherwise, he wouldn't have called religion the opium of the masses. Here is the real opium of the masses today: "paturon on the streets; small gambling dens in neighborhoods; cockfights, jueteng, STL and lotteries in towns and cities; and on-line gambling in internet cafes and private homes". And our government officials have appointed themselves the new drug lords.


P.O. Box 38
, Legazpi City 4500, Philippines

PASTORAL BULLETIN NO. 1, Series of 2008

To: People of God in Legazpi, All Men and Women of Good Will and Faith

“Take no part in fruitless works of darkness, rather expose them.” (Eph 5,11)

Recently, a request has been handed to the Legazpi City Council to issue a “certificate of no objection” to a planned Bingo hall operation inside the Gaisano Pacific Mall. If granted, the certificate will pave the way for the start of the Bingo hall’s operation.

As pastors, we are expressing our opposition to the planned Bingo operation in Legazpi City. And we urge our city councilors to do the same by not issuing a “certificate of no objection”.

Two arguments are being advanced to justify the proposed Bingo operation: that it is nothing but a benign form of entertainment and that the city stands to gain economic benefits from it.

Gambling is anything but benign. There is no dearth of reliable scientific studies that have conclusively proven the ill effects of institutionalized gambling, including Bingo halls, on persons, families, communities and the larger society. Some of these are: personal enslavement to vice, economic deprivation of families, broken marriages, and exploitation of the poor.

PAGCOR’s regulations may mitigate some of these adverse effects but only to a certain extent. The contradiction of the State’s promotion of gambling and its mandate to protect its citizens will always rear its ugly head sooner or later.

These studies are easily available on the internet and in any respectable library with materials on the topic of social problems. It will be most irresponsible for our elected officials not to consider these studies on gambling before forming judgment on this issue.

The proposed Bingo operation’s perceived economic benefits are questionable and deceptive. Its economic contribution to the city and to the province is, at this point, vague and, at best, minimal. Its corollary benefits to other industries like transportation, tourism and small businesses are not as significant, nor as certain, as some people would have us believe. What is certain though is that it will not raise the standard of living in the city, nor will it raise the quality of entertainment venues around.

On the other hand, money spent on Bingo means money taken away from the needs of the family. At a time when families groan about their poverty, when the community is only rising from the destruction wrought by supertyphoons Milenyo and Reming, when Bicol is ranked among the poorest regions in the country, it will be most irresponsible for our elected officials to allow any business to operate that will put at risk the economic prospects of families.

The Church is taking the side of the family and the common good by expressing opposition to the proposed Bingo operation in Legazpi City. Whose side is the City Council taking in turn: that of the people or that of socially irresponsible business interest?

Gambling activities, legal and illegal, already abound: paturon on the streets; small gambling dens in neighborhoods; cockfights, jueteng, STL and lotteries in towns and cities; and on-line gambling in internet cafes and private homes. These activities are already doing more than enough damage to the community’s social and moral fiber. Must the city council burden the community with one more gambling operation?

Gambling and sustainable development do not go hand in hand. Gambling and healthy living do not jive. Gambling does not provide good entertainment. Gambling, in the long run, harms persons and families. The Bingo operation’s vague economic promise to the city will not equal the social cost of risking cases of personal addiction, dysfunctional families, financial loss, juvenile delinquency and other social ills associated with gambling.

The Municipality of Daraga has only recently got of rid of Bingo in their place. Will Legazpi City move a step backward by allowing Bingo to operate in its place instead?

We strongly urge the Legazpi City Council not to allow the proposed Bingo operation in the city to proceed.

We ask our parishioners, Catholic schools, religious organizations and movements, all men and women of faith and good will, to pray that this plan will not push through and to support the cause of opposing the establishment of a Bingo operation in Legazpi City.

May Our Lady of Salvation guide our elected officials and protect our families from harm.

Sincerely in His service,

Apostolic Administrator

21January 2008

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