The recent incident at Resorts World Manila where a lone gunman—addicted to gambling but banned by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. from all casinos—caused the death of 37 people brings to fore the good and the evil in gambling.
Is the presence of so many casinos, some of which are owned and operated by the government, good for the people and the economy?
We all know the evils of gambling. Many of whom who indulge in it get addicted. That gunman, for instance, had become heavily indebted and had sold everything. His parents and his wife had sought the help of Pagcor to ban him from casinos.
The addiction to gambling wrecks families. Jesse Javier Carlos committed suicide and caused the deaths of others.
So, should the government now close down all casino and prohibit all gambling in the country?
I admit that illegal forms of gambling deprive the government of much-needed revenue. But legal gambling can be regulated well. It can provide the government much-needed revenue. This is why Pagcor was created in the first place.
So on the suggestion to ban gambling? I think it boils down to balancing what is good for the people and for the economy.
I have gone on record in my support of the entry of big casinos here, for the sake of tourism and entertainment.
Sure, there are downsides to this. Indeed, uncontrolled gambling can have a disastrous impact on families. Then again, one can always regulate. Pagcor can, as in the case of Carlos, always ban individuals from casinos. It has no less than 450 names banned.
Gambling, per se, is not evil. It is when it is abused that it becomes evil. Why must we throw the baby out with the bathwater?
What must be stopped is illegal gambling. As I said, it deprives the government of revenues and it promotes corruption among public officials, the police and the military.
The gaming and entertainment industry is a $100-billion industry worldwide. If the Philippines can partake of this, why not give it a shot? But we must do it well, of course.
I myself, with my family, have gone to Las Vegas and Macau. I have gambled, but always set a limit for myself. During these trips, I always spent more for accommodations and food.
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An investigation into what happened at Resorts World Manila would be good because it can prevent a repeat of the tragedy.
Definitely, there were security lapses and we all saw these in the CCTV footage. My gulay, some of the security people were seen running when they saw the masked gunman. And why were the guards not armed?
The RWM management has a lot of explaining to do. This is a wake-up call to all casinos nationwide.
There is no substitute for vigilance. Terrorism can happen anytime, anywhere.
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Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio warned that we may end up just following Beijing’s foreign policy if we do not raise the fact that we won the arbitration case we had filed against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration. He called this the Finlandization of the Philippines.
According to Carpio, Finlandization is the neutralization of a small and vulnerable country (like the Philippines) so that a powerful neighbor (like China) would not take over it.
The term was coined during the Cold War when the Soviet Union rendered Finland, which shares a long border with the communist giant, neutral so it could remain sovereign—even just in name.
Carpio said that with China claiming a big part of the South China Sea, it would share a 1,700-kilometer border with the Philippines leaving only a tiny sliver of water in Manila’s exclusive economic zone.
He raised the possibility that China could build up Panatag Shoal (internationally known as Scarborough Shoal) which is why the Duterte administration must assert the Philippines’ victory in the arbitral ruling.
Carpio’s view is supported by many. I do, too. The problem is that China has, time and again, said it does not respect the arbitral ruling because it is not a party to it.
The big question: What do we do?
President Duterte’s quandary is that if we insist on our claim, there might be war. And we are not prepared for this.
We might have the Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States, but are we sure the US would defend us?
In his effort to pursue an “independent foreign policy,” President Duterte may end up saying “Amen” to everything China says.