Emano tells casino operators to get Church’s nod first

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/23 April) – The three foreign investors who have expressed interest in putting up casinos in the city will have to convince the local Catholic church first before the city government will allow them to operate, Mayor Vicente Emano said.

“I told them to talk to the church. If the church will agree then we will put up the casinos,” the mayor said of the casino operators from China, Israel and Malaysia.

In the city’s official blog site (http://cagayandeorocityinformationoffice.wordpress.com), however, Emano is quoted to support casino operations and appealed to the Catholic church to allow the opening of a casino.

“Should we have a casino, only the businessmen and tourists with passports will be allowed entry. We will charge them with high entrance fees so only the rich could get in,” Emano said in the vernacular in the blog.

Fr. Nathaniel Lerio, director of the Social Action Center of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro (SAC-ACDO), in a phone interview that he welcomes Emano’s decision to let the church have the first say on the casino issue.

“We are honored and grateful that the mayor has given us priority to give our position on the issue,” he said.

“The church has a long history of opposing any form of gambling, especially casinos. But I will bring this to the attention to the Archbishop so we can discuss this matter thoroughly and will come up with an official statement on the issue,” Lerio added.

Emano also said that giving the church the prerogative to decide on whether to put up casinos in the city or not is not an “interference on the part of the church on the government.”

“Unless they can convince the church then I am not allowing any casino to operate in the city. There is no such thing as the separation of the church and the state. Actually, we have been careful about that. Although there is such a doctrine, but certainly we know that it is the government that works with the church,” Emano said.

“And besides, this is not an interference on the part of the church on the government. In fact, they are trying to help us find the way,” he added. (Cong B. Corrales / MindaNews)