July 21, 2024

Representatives from various sectors and civil society organizations in Baguio have renewed their opposition to the operation of electronic bingo and all forms of gambling in the city.

The renewed opposition was spurred by the latest application for two new outlets of traditional and electronic bingo games by RCC Global Entertainment Inc., which the city council endorsed earlier without public consultation.

In the public consultation eventually called by the city council last June 4 after Mayor Benjamin Magalong thumbed down the body’s move for want of public discussion, the sectoral leaders and representatives chided the council members who voted in favor of the resolutions that approved the request of RCC Global president Romeo Chong to operate the Pagcor-sanctioned games at Summer Pines Residences in Marcos Highway and Cedar Peak along Mabini St.

The citizens appealed to the councilors to take back their approval of RCC’s application and finally make a stand against gambling, whether legal or illegal.

They said bingo and gambling in general go against the image of Baguio as a character city and educational center, describing such activities as a “malignant cancer that destroys the moral fiber of society.”

The groups, who spoke in the presence of the city council committee of the whole members, Magalong, and RCC Global representatives, represented the Diocese of Baguio and a number of religious groups, the business sector, Society of Outstanding Citizens of Baguio, Federation of Parents and Teachers’ Association, solemnizing officers, Burnham Park vendors, outstanding women leaders, and the academe, among others.

The same stand was made by other concerned residents who joined the public consultation at the Baguio Convention Center via virtual media.

They asked why the council approved the application when there are already four existing ones, whether more of such activity is necessary, and whether the revenue it brings to the city could make up for the “horrors” and irreparable damage it causes to families.

Others shared experiences about their family, friends, and people they knew who broke down and went under due to gambling.

“It makes us lose earnings and savings for family needs. We acknowledge the revenue brought by its operations, but to allow it for just that reason is selfish,” Jocelyn Dugaong, principal of the Metropolitan Baguio Christian Academy, said.

Jeanine Chan, a representative from the business sector, said nothing can be gained from all gambling forms.

“Economically it does not bring in tourists and revenue. We will not get guests. We will not get employment (in the case of e-bingo). It decreases productivity of the people. It encourages theft among family members. Gambling means losses,” she said.

Another said city officials should not encourage gambling, “as it is like drugs that makes one an addict, destroys lives, and wreaks havoc to communities like a virus.”

The Diocese of Baguio led by Bishop Victor Bendico which consistently rejected gambling, among other causes since the time of its former vicars, Bishops Ernesto Salgado and Carlito Cenzon, expressed its frustration that gambling in the city still exists and reiterated its strong opposition to RCC’s application and support to those who are steadfast against gambling.

Another church leader implored city officials not to pass resolutions promoting gambling due to its damaging effects and as it is not timely because of the economic crisis everybody faces now, and instead pass measures that answer the real needs of the people.

The women leaders’ group said they detest the show of support by the councilors to the bingo application and demanded that the city council make a united front against it.

The RCC Global said it is their hope the public would understand that they have complete documents submitted to the city council and that their operation is transparent under Pagcor’s sanctions.

“But the public’s knowledge on how we operate is a little bit misguided. Regulations are there. It is unfair a lot of sentiments put the blame on gambling, which we don’t think is correct because of the stigma placed by institutions on gambling. We hope you can see that the issue is addiction and we should offer solutions for it, since there are people who can afford to spend money on gambling after paying their obligations,” the RCC Global representative said.

Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan, who attended the dialogue along with the councilors, said the sentiments of the public will be considered in their actions on the issue, while he also apologized on behalf of the city council for passing resolutions that offended them.

“Sorry if we have crafted laws that offended you. We are not that perfect. If we passed resolutions that offended you, dispensa poMeron din namang magagandang batas na naipasa despite this pandemic,” Olowan said. – Hanna C. Lacsamana