Parishioners hold prayer rally against GenSan casino operation

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 26 Feb) – An estimated 2,000 parishioners flocked Tuesday evening to a prayer rally here organized by the local Catholic Church against a casino operation.

Fr. Angel Buenavides, vicar general of the Diocese of Marbel, said Wednesday that all six parishes from the Metro Dadiangas Area joined the prayer rally at Robinsons Place.

The prayer rally was held in time for the casino’s soft opening Tuesday evening. The casino, located at the back of the mall, features slot machines and card games.

“The social impacts of a casino far outweigh the economic benefits like the jobs that will be generated and the receipts and taxes from the tourists. We have seen that casinos attract prostitution,” the priest told MindaNews.

Councilor Jose Orlando Acharon said the permit for the casino to operate in the city was granted by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR).

“PAGCOR helps our poor constituents through the assistance extended by the PCSO,” he said, referring to the medical cash grants of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office to the less fortunate.

Acharon added the casino operations will also boost the tourism and economic potentials of the city.

Buenavides said many parishioners were caught unaware that a casino will be operating in the city.

The local Catholic Church was not invited to any consultations they conducted prior to the operation of the casino, he noted.

Marbel Bishop Cerilo Casicas gave instructions to intensify the opposition to the casino operation and other forms of gambling in the diocese.

Buenavides said a “bigger multi-sectoral mobilization, including our Muslim brothers and sisters, will be mounted to drum beat opposition to the casino operation.”

During the prayer rally, representatives of Grand Imperial, which runs the casino, met with the protest organizers.

“We were told the casino’s operation will boost the tourism potentials of the city,” Buenavides said.

The representatives said the building still under construction will house 200 rooms to accommodate tourists who will patronize the casino, according to the priest.

Buenavides said they suspected the casino was constructed in a bid to accommodate Chinese gamblers, although the casino representatives did not say who their target tourists are.

The priest added they fear the casino-hotel might also become a Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) hub that would employ Chinese workers.

“Protect our family and children from the culture of gambling and prostitution… no to casino gambling in GenSan,” read one of the streamers mounted during the prayer rally. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)