MANILA, Philippines—Catholic bishops Monday called on President-elect Benigno Aquino III to put a stop to the outgoing administration’s plan to open more casinos around the country, stressing that gambling “destroys families and corrupts people.”
In a pastoral letter released Monday, Archbishop Socrates Villegas and six bishops from the Lingayen-Dagupan archdiocese urged the incoming President to stop the planned opening of two new casinos in Urdaneta City in Pangasinan and San Leonardo, Nueva Ecija.
“If it is not legally possible to close all casinos immediately, we plead with the government not to open new ones,” the bishops said.
“We appeal to the government to aggressively fight corruption and diminish poverty. One of the first steps the government must take is to stop the opening of more casinos,” the letter said.
Bishops Jacinto Jose (Urdaneta), Mylo Hubert Vergara (San Jose), Artemio Rillera (San Fernando), Marlo Peralta (Alaminos), Sofronio Bancud (Cabanatuan) and Renato Mayugba (Lingayen-Dagupan auxiliary) signed the letter dated June 14.
“The right step is values education for the children and livelihood opportunities for the poor. Opening another casino—in Urdaneta and San Leonardo or in any other place—is a step deviating from our vision,” the prelates said.
The church leaders said they were counting on Aquino’s battle cry during the campaign against poverty and corruption.
Gambling would aggravate both problems, they said, as casinos would “open more doors for corruption” and lead to “the impoverishment of the families of gamblers.”
“Where the casinos operate now we see the ill effects on the socio-moral fiber of the citizenry—the rise of criminality, the spread of prostitution and the shameless corruption of those engaged in the business,” they said.
“We appeal to the government to aggressively fight corruption and diminish poverty. One of the first steps the government must take is to stop the opening of more casinos,” the prelates said.
The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), which operates the casinos in the Philippines, is one of the top revenue-generating corporations of the government. It provides the multibillion-peso Presidential Social Fund.
Casinos, Pagcor officials had said, provide many jobs and serve as a magnet for tourism and foreign investments. Casinos and other leisure facilities are standard in most cities of the world.