Issue of August 6, 2017
     
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69th Courier Anniversary Issue
 
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Councilors say they acted in good faith over e–bingo
by Rimaliza A. Opiña

Good faith, not conspiracy was what made the city council pass the resolutions containing the city government’s non-objection to the application of two corporations for a license to operate traditional and electronic bingo before the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation.

Councilor Faustino Olowan, chair of the city council committee on laws, said the allegations made in a recent public consultation were baseless and were interpreted to suit the claim of groups opposing the council’s recent decision.

“The approval was done in good faith. It is not fair to accuse us,” Olowan said explaining that to include the issue in the “other matters” item in the agenda is allowed in the internal rules of the city council.

Religious organizations previously said they were betrayed by the city council and recently, former councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda said the resolutions were approved in haste despite the absence of a public consultation prior to the resolution’s approval, and for not conforming to LGU and Pagcor resolutions.

Olowan countered, the resolutions were passed to make the operation of the applicants legal.

Highland Gaming Corporation has long been operating and the city council merely gave its imprimatur so the company could ask the Pagcor to extend its license to operate. For Bingo Palace, requirements have been fulfilled so the committee also recommended to the council en banc approval of their committee report.

He also said the council did not ignore the clamor of moralist organizations reason why a proviso was included in both resolutions that other applications in the future shall no longer be entertained.

Under the Pagcor’s rules, a certificate of non-objection from the host LGU is one of the requirements before a permit to operate.

Committee on laws member Councilor Benny Bomogao added the final approval lies with the Pagcor. “It is the Pacgcor that will approve. The city’s non-objection is just one of the steps that the applicants have to comply.”

Both councilors agree that disapproving an application based on moral grounds alone is not enough basis.

“If the basis is morality alone, all forms of gambling should be stopped, even sin businesses,” Bomogao said, adding he is personally against gambling but government has a role to perform – to regulate legitimate businesses, not prohibit them.

Vice Mayor Edison Bilog has a different opinion. He affirmed the council might be sued for violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards of Public Officials and Employees. He said the proviso that the applications of Highland Gaming and Bingo Palace will be the last, only raises suspicions that the two applicants were given special accommodation.

“Parang sila lang ‘yung binigyan ng pabor tapos ‘yung mga susunod hindi na pwede,” the vice mayor said.

He confirmed that inclusions in the “others matters” agenda is not prohibited but he also admitted that this can be abused.

Bilog claims he was against the amendment of the council’s internal rules but was overruled when the members voted on it.

Like the groups who are seeking for the rescission of resolutions 176 and 176-A s. 2017, Bilog said he is also hoping for his colleagues to reconsider their votes.

The ad hoc committee is presently collating inputs gathered during the public consultation before it will submit its recommendation to the city council for deliberation.


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