MANILA, Philippines – A frustrated President Rodrigo Duterte stressed the need to suppress online gambling, a growing industry in the Philippines, during a speech on Wednesday, October 24.
"Pero ‘yung online-online bingo (But the online bingo), it will be suppressed, no gambling," he said during the conferment of the Philippine Quality Awards in Malacañang.
He said gambling is a magnet for many crimes, including kidnap-for-ransom and extortion. (READ: How China's online gambling addiction is reshaping Manila)
"Kasi ang gambling kasi, tingnan mo itong Okada lahat ng kidnapper, extortionists, mga pulis na scalawags, mag-kidnap sila diyan lang sa kuwarto. Tawagan 'yung pamilya, ayaw mong magbigay? Patayin nila," said Duterte.
(Because gambling, look at Okada, all the kidnappers, extortionists, scalawag policemen, they kidnap right there in the hotel room. They call the family. "You don't want to pay?" Then they will kill them.)
The day after, Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo clarified that Duterte likely meant he would crack down only on "illegal" online gambling firms.
"As far as I know, that refers only to illegal online gambling," said Panelo.
However, in the same Wednesday speech, Duterte said he had no problem ignoring contracts with casinos and companies behind gambling establishments.
"Kaya 'yang casino (So those casinos), they are still at it. Kaya may franchise lang siya na sabi (Because they have a franchise and they said) it's a contract. To hell with the contract, I told you I do not want gambling, period," said Duterte.
Months before this, however, the President indicated he would let online gaming companies operate as long as they pay taxes correctly and avoid locations near schools and churches.
His changing stances has created uncertainty in the growing industry. (READ: Uncertainty hounds online gaming in the Philippines)
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.