CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – The Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro is up in arms against a casino that has opened in the neighboring municipality of Opol, Misamis Oriental.
In a pastoral letter to local priests and parishioners, Archbishop Jose Cabantan railed against the surprise opening on December 19 of the Grand Imperial, the new Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) casino in Barangay Taboc, along the Cagayan de Oro-Iligan highway.
Opol Mayor Max Seno told local station Magnum Radio that he and the municipal council approved the operations of the casino.
He defended the approval, calling the Grand Imperial an “entertainment complex.”
But photos by Herbie Gomez, Rappler’s Mindanao coordinator, show a prominent banner inviting people to play and win, with the logo of Casino Filipino, the brand indicating a facility is operated by Pagcor.
Rappler tried but failed to contact the mayor. We will update this story as soon as he responds.
The archbishop warned that gambling is “addictive” and breeds “a network of corruption that feeds itself” on taxpayers and the poor.
Any economic development or revenues from the casino would not compensate for the destruction of families, he added.
“We oppose the operation of a gambling casino even if it’s legal and much more if it is clandestinely constructed in the archdiocese,” Cabantan said.
A senior priest of the archdiocese told Rappler that Cabantan also called clergy to a meeting after the New Year to discuss what actions to take against the new facility.
The Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro covers the provinces of Misamis Oriental and Camiguin as well as the cities of Cagayan de Oro, El Salvador, and Gingoog.
Monsignor Rey Monsanto, the parish priest of Our Lady of Fatima Church in Barangay Camaman-an, Cagayan de Oro, said residents were “caught by surprise” when the casino opened.
The archdiocese only learned of its existence through Father Joel Oga, the parish priest of Opol.
“We will vigorously oppose its operation and would even resort to picketing its entrances,” said Monsanto, a staunch anti-gambling campaigner.
Referring to the meeting called by Cabantan, Monsanto said: “I don’t discount the possibility of mobilizing mass actions to stop the operation of the casino. We can lie down at the entrance to stop any of their clients from going inside.”
This is not the first time the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro has battled Pagcor’s attempts to open casinos.
On June 15, 1993, the archdiocese led by the late archbishop Jesus Tuquib successfully blocked the opening of a casino in Cagayan de Oro by staging a monthlong protest at its entrance.
The protest convinced then-president Fidel Ramos to order Pagcor to stop the casino operations.
In 2017, Archbishop Emeritus Antonio Ledesma also led the archdiocese in successfully stopping another attempt to open a casino in the city. – Rappler.com
Froilan Gallardo is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.