Parishioners in the southern Philippines held a “prayer rally” outside a shopping mall in General Santos City to dramatize their opposition to the operation of a casino in their locality.
At least 200 people led by priests and nuns from the Diocese of Marbel staged the demonstration on Feb. 25 in front of the Grand Imperial Casino to protest its operations.
“The social repercussion of a casino far outweighs the economic benefits like the jobs that will be generated and the receipts and taxes from the tourists,” said Father Angel Buenavides.
The priest, who serves as vicar general of the Diocese of Marbel, said “casinos attract prostitution.”
“Protect our family and children from the culture of gambling and prostitution,” read a placard at the demonstration.
The “prayer rally” was held in time for the “soft opening” of a casino at the back of the shopping mall that features slot machines and card games.
The priest condemned the “abrupt” opening of the casino, which he said was given the green light to operate without proper consultations.
He said the diocese had not been informed and consulted about the matter and that they were surprised when announcements came recently regarding its opening.
“We acknowledge that the local governments have the final say whether to accept these ventures or not but the problem here was, it made a decision without properly consulting its constituents,” said the priest.
Father Buenavides said the diocese strongly opposed the operation of the Grand Imperial Casino as it will “only promote gambling” and “encourage other immoral activities such as prostitution.”
Benjamin Sumog-oy of the Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement-GenSan warned that the operation of the casino can result in the surge in crimes and other illegal activities.
“The supposed income that it will bring to the city will not be enough to justify the harm that it will bring to our communities,” he said.
Franklin Gacal Jr., chairman of the city council’s committee on games and amusement, said consultations were conducted before the legislative body decided to allow the casino to operate.
He said the concurrence resolution, which was passed on Nov. 12 last year, was unanimously approved by council members and did not meet any objection from the city mayor.
“We believe that the presence of the casino in the city will further boost local tourism and our economy, and will especially create jobs for our residents,” he said.
Bishop Cerilo Casicas of Marbel has earlier called for opposition to the casino’s operations and to other forms of gambling in his diocese.
With additional reporting from the Philippine News Agency.