BAGUIO CITY– City residents were caught by surprise recently after the City Council fast-tracked the approval of the application of a gaming corporation for the operation of the controversial e-bingo outlets in two strategic sites in the city without passing through the normal course of legislation.
With 9 councilors voting in favor and 5 councilors against, the council immediately approved the request of Romeo H. Chong, president of RCC Global Entertainment, Inc., for the establishment and operation of an electronic and traditional bingo and other games authorized by the State-owned Philippine Amusement Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) at the Summer Pines Residences along Marcos Highway and at the Cedar Peak along Mabini Street corner Gen. Luna Road.
The councilors who voted in favor of the aforesaid application were Councilors Joel Alangsab, Benny Bomogao, Elaine Sembrano, Arthur Allad-iw, Vladimir Cayabas, Fred Bagbagen, Lilia Fariñas, Francisco Roberto Ortega VI and Michael Lawana while the local legislators who voted against the e-bingo operations were Councilors Betty Lourdes F. Tabanda, Maria Mylen Victoria G. Yaranon, Philian Louise Weygan-Allan, Isabelo Cosalan, Jr. and Levy Lloyd Orcales.
The separate letter applications of the gaming corporation dated March 26, 2021 addressed to Vice Mayor Faustino A. Olowan was inserted in the regular agenda of the city council on suspended rules as items 50 and 50-A even without the complete attachments and in alleged violation of the council’s internal rules of procedures.
Under the updated internal rules and procedures of the council, controversial matters and those that need extensive discussions from the members shall first be referred to the appropriate committee for study and recommendation before the matter will be included in the calendar off business in the upcoming sessions of the body.
When the aforesaid matter was discussed, oppositors to the operation of e-bingo in the city raised the observation that the same must first be referred to the appropriate committee before it will be calendared but the majority of the councilors voted against the proposal even with the evident lacking documents and eventually decided to outrightly approve the applications.
RCC also operates the e-bingo outlet situated in the Maharlika Livelihood Center which had been the subject of heated debates in the past councils.
E-bingo critics also questioned the refusal of the majority members of the council to refer the matter to the appropriate committee for the evaluation of the applicant’s documents and the conduct of public hearings like what had happened in similar cases during the previous councils as if they are rushing against time to allegedly favor the same for whatever purpose.
According to observers, the previous approval of the establishment of e-bingo outlets in some parts of the city passed through the conduct of public hearings and that the applicants were required to present their supporting documents but they are wondering why in the latest application, the same was outrightly approved in a single session and in violation of the council’s internal rules of procedure.
Resolution No. 084, series of 2015 interpose no objection to the request of Rafael Tabora to put up an electronic bingo outlet as authorized by PAGCOR to be situated at the Center Point Plaza, Bakakeng Central barangay subject to existing zoning ordinances and other laws, ordinances and administrative issuances affecting the operations of bingo games in the city.
Further- Resolution No. 101, series of 2015 resolved that the Permits and Licensing Division of the City Mayor’s Office submit to the city council a written report regarding the matter on the issuance of business permits for the operation of electronic bingo at SM city Baguio and at the Baguio Center Mall.
The previous council also passed Resolution No. 201, series of 2017 interposing no objection to the request of Mr. Alejandro P. Alonte, Executive Vice President – Operations and Marketing, to operate electronic bingo and other games approved by PAGCOR at Albergo Hotel and Mr. Jimmy Ong of Bingo Palace Corporation to operate traditional and electronic bingo in Baguio City.
Resolution No. 176-A, series of 2017 interposed no objection to the request of Mr. Alenjadro Alonte, Executive Vice President – Operations and Marketing of Highland Gaming Corporation to operate traditional and electronic bingo at the Upper Basement of SM City Baguio and at Highland bingo located at the 5th floor of the Baguio Center Mall.
In 2016, the council passed Resolution No. 317, series of 2016 approved the request of Mr. Romeo H. Chong, president, RCC Global Entertainment, Inc. to maintain and operate an electronic bingo outlet at the Maharlika Livelihood Center.
E-bingo critics also lashed at the majority members of the city council for allegedly inserting as one of the conditions that the local government will no longer entertain similar applications in the future as it seems that the city is giving undue favor to the earlier applicants for the operation of the controversial establishments and after they might have gotten what they wanted from the applicants for such gambling operations. By HENT