CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews / 09 January) — Religious leaders are organizing a united front against a gambling casino in the neighboring town of Opol, Misamis Oriental which they say started operations without consulting their parishioners.
Opol town parish priest Father Joel Oga said he would meet with his counterparts in the Iglesia Filipina Independiente to unify their opposition against The Grand Imperial Opol, a casino operated by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) in Barangay Taboc, Opol town.
The casino, which started operating on December 19, 2021, is open daily “from 2:00 pm to 10:00 pm,” according to the social media page of the the casino.
“We were not properly consulted. We were misled into believing that it was just an ordinary office,” he said.
In a meeting last Wednesday with Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Jose Cabantan and Opol residents, Oga said the parish leaders vowed to oppose the casino operations and start a signature campaign this week.
He said the Bishop is expected to issue another pastoral letter and lead the signature campaign throughout the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro, Misamis Oriental and Camiguin.
IFI Bishop Felixberto Calang said Bishop Redeemer Yanez of Libertad diocese will meet their priests this week to discuss the ways in which they can manifest their opposition to the casino operations.
Calang said the casino, located less than 300 meters from their church in Barangay Taboc, is an affront to their faith which is staunchly anti-casino.
“IFI strongly opposes any form of gambling. Casino as a game of chance is also gambling,” Calang said.
The Cagayan de Oro archdiocese and the IFI have sizable followers in Opol town, just a few minutes away from Cagayan de Oro City.
The two religious groups were responsible for blocking the efforts of PAGCOR to open a gambling casino in Cagayan de Oro in 1993.
Monsignor Rey Monsanto, a member of the arcdiocese’s Presbyterial Council and a veteran in the battles against PAGCOR, warned that the religious sector would be treading on uncharted territory in their opposition against the casino in Opol.
“This time we are in a COVID-19 pandemic and organizing parishioners to picket the casino will not be a good idea considering the health protocols,” Monsanto said.
He noted that COVID-19 has rendered street demonstrations useless as a muscle flexing effort by the religious sector.
He said the religious sector should find innovative means to oppose the casino like using social media.
Opol town Mayor Maximo Seno said he approved the operation of the casino based on the a resolution made by the town council on July 10, 2017.
The council chaired by former Vice Mayor Chizarina Ortigoza unanimously approved the request by PAGCOR because it opens the municipality to a “vibrant tourism industry and increasing revenes.” (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)