MANILA, Philippines—While admitting that his antigambling campaign has become a “voice in the wilderness,” retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz on Friday warned of evils that can be lured into the country with the opening of big casinos in Manila early next year.
The 78-year-old leader of the Krusada ng Bayan Laban sa Jueteng said the casinos would invite “goons and gangsters” who would engage in money laundering and prostitution, thus threatening Filipino values.
He said gambling was not only addictive but also corruptive, as it would encourage people to commit acts of dishonesty to finance the bad habit. “As far as these casinos are concerned, they are frequented not only by rich and dishonest Filipinos but also by foreign gangsters,” he said.
“The administration cannot claim that casinos are OK because [proceeds from the levy collected by the government] build schools, finance this and that infrastructure. The end does not justify the means,” said Cruz in a phone interview with reporters. “Gambling can never be justified.”
Opening in March
The antigambling crusader was reacting to reports that the $1.2-billion Solaire Resort, owned by port magnate Enrique Razon Jr. and the first of four casinos that will operate in the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.’s Las Vegas-style Entertainment City on Manila Bay, was slated to open in March.
The government is hoping to boost inbound tourist traffic with the opening of the 100-hectare gaming complex in Pasay City, which is expected to draw at least one million tourists yearly and generate $10 billion in annual gaming revenue.
Earlier, the Department of Tourism welcomed the gaming complex, saying that once completed, it will help the government hit its 10-million target of foreign tourist arrivals by the end of the Aquino administration in 2016.
Cruz acknowledged that operating casinos in the capital would help draw more tourists into the country. “But at what expense? So you’ll be inviting gangs and goons who are gamblers. I still have to see a gambler who is a saint,” said the retired archbishop.
Exasperated, Cruz said he and his group would not make any move to stop the casinos from being operated or to encourage Filipinos to boycott these establishments.
He pointed out that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines had already issued a statement against any forms of gambling in the country.
‘Voice crying in wilderness’
“I’m tired already of doing that. I’m like a voice crying in the wilderness [and] this administration does not seem to know the distinction between right and wrong, proper and improper, ethical and unethical. So, therefore, this administration is a big liability for the Filipino culture,” he said.
“Avarice or greed does not know any bounds, does not respect any values. I’ll just limit myself there. I won’t say this and that because I’ve already done enough to help put a stop to gambling, legal or illegal, but nothing happened,” he added.
Cruz has repeatedly expressed his frustration at the Aquino administration for its failure to put a lid on “jueteng,” an illegal numbers game, which has continued to operate in many parts of the country.
“The antigambling crusade appears to have lost hope for a better governance, especially on the part of the present administration but it does not mean that I will act like the three monkeys—hear nothing, see nothing and say nothing,” he said.