BAGUIO CITY – Anti-gambling advocates in the city went on an outrage after learning that the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) already approved not only three but five electronic bingo gaming stations in the different parts of the city apart from an electronic gaming outlet in nearby Tuba town.
Nelia Lorenozo, chief of the remote gaming unit of PAGCOR’s gaming and licensing department, said that the Baguio Center Mall, SM City Baguio and the Tabora e-bingo outlet along Marcos highway were already given the permits to operate by the State gaming corporation while the e-bingo outlets inside the Albergo Hotel near the Presidential Mansion ND the Maharlika Livelihood Center were simply issued provisional franchises and awaiting the formal endorsement from the city government.
She explained to city councilors that the electronic bingo outlets inside the Baguio Center Mall and SM City Baguio were issued franchises and permits pursuant to the old rules in 2010 and 2011 where the endorsement of the local government was not a mandatory requirement but the Tabora electronic bingo outlet was covered by the new rules requiring a certificate of no objection from the host local government that is why the operator requested the council to pass a resolution interposing no objection to the existence of the outlet.
Under existing PAGCOR rules, amusement operators are given a provisional franchise for a period of one year provided that they are in possession of an endorsement from the local government while it renews the same every two years depending on the existence of a certificate of no objection from the local government.
The operation of e-bingo in the city became a controversy after the city council on May 4 railroaded the approval of a resolution interposing no objection to the operation of such outlet along Marcos highway since eight councilors voted in favor while four councilors voted against the said proposal.
Last year, the issue on the e-bingo remained as a controversy because majority members of the city council signed an unnumbered resolution dated 25 March 2014 interposing no objection to Tabora’s e-bingo outlet considering that the resolution did not pass through the regular committee and deliberations of the local legislative body.
Lorenzo explained the decision whether or not to allow the continuous operation of the three e-bingo outlets now lies on the action of the city government considering that the two prospective e-bingo operators are not able to pursue their operations because of the absence of the required endorsements from the city government.
Irate and embattled officials of the Baguio-Benguet Multi-sectoral Group (BBMG) expressed disappointment over the failure of the council to withdraw their earlier resolution interposing no objection to the operation of the e-bingo outlets.
They challenged city officials to have the political will to listen to the plight of the local residents against obvious gambling operations citywide by withdrawing their resolution supporting e-bingo since the continues operation of such gambling stations would significantly affect the moral values of the people.
PAGCOR officials were invited by the city council to shed light on how the Tabora e-bingo outlet was able to operate even without the formal endorsement from the city government.
When asked on whether or not the operator was able to present the pertinent documents justifying the authenticity of the unnumbered resolution presented to the corporation to acquire the provisional permit, Lorenzo informed the city council that the operator presented to PAGCOR an undertaking that he saw all the councilors affix their signatures to the unnumbered resolution interposing no objection to the operation of his e-bingo outlet.
It can be recalled that Vice Mayor Edison R. Bilog and councilors Faustino Olowan, Joel Alangsab and Fred Bagbagen denied having known the passage of the resolution or affixed their signatures to the unnumbered resolution that prompted Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan to request OPAGCOR to cancel Tabora’s provisional permit since the basis where the resolution came from already does not exist after the aforesaid local officials denied having signed such proposal.
The anti-gambling advocates challenged the city councilors to prioritize the deliberation of the proposed resoluti9on authored by councilor Lilia G. Yaranon seeking for the withdrawal of the approved resolution interposing no objection to the operation of Tabora’s e-bingo outlet because it runs counter to the anti-gambling policy of the local government.
The said resolution has been pending on the city council on laws over the past several weeks but the same has not been calendared for discussion despite the submission of thousands of signatures opposing the existence of e-bingo stations in the different parts of the city.
By Dexter A. See