CAGAYAN de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma said there was an attempt from officials of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) to build and finance an establishment of a drug rehabilitation in the city in exchange for the church's approval of a casino in the city.

Ledesma, in a press conference Friday, said this in reply to a question if anyone from Malacañan offered to negotiate for the establishment of a casino here.

"Some officials from Pagcor came to me and said nga kung magtukod ta ug casino, andam daw sila mohatag sa drug rehabilitation sa atong syudad, andam daw sila mutukod ug isa ka building para sa drug rehabilitation," (if we will set up a casino, they are willing to finance the construction of a drug rehabilitation center in the city) he said.

"But I told them, dili man angayan na naa napud magsulod nga lain nga addiction, naa pa gani drugs, madungagan nasad ug gambling addiction," (It is not correct that another addiction will come in. There is already drugs, and now gambling addiction will come in) he added.

Ledesma and civil society groups in the city reiterated their stand against the casino, and even urged city councilors this time to drop the Limketkai proposal.

Read: Limketkai to house casino, Church opposes

"Mao man ni atong tuyo nga nag media forum aron mapadayag nato ang positions and to influence their decision, busa atong ginapaabot na madunggan gyud ni sa mga kagawad nato kay nagtuo mi nga mao ni ang tingog sa katawhan," (This is the reason why we called for a media forum to continue to expose our positions and to influence their decisions. We bring this to the attention of the city councilors because we believe that this is the voice of the people) he said.

Ledesma also pointed to Vice Mayor Rainier Joaquin 'Kikang' Uy, who, in previous interviews, said he is 'for development', a key factor that a casino can bring to the city and its people.

But Ledesma said Uy should conduct more hearings thoroughly to hear the true sentiments of the people.

"Dapat ipadayon niya ang hearings para mapaminaw gyud niya ang tingog sa katawhan. Ang casino, dili lang kini issue sa ekonomiya kundili apil na sa moralidad, and we have to make sure nga ang fiber sa katawhan sa Cagayan de Oro dili napud madungagan sa addiction to gambling," (They should continue with the hearings so they will hear the true sentiment of the people. Casino is not just an issue of economics but of morality and we make sure that the (moral) fiber of the people in Cagayan de Oro will not faced with addiction to gambling) he said.

Read: Vice mayor bars councilor from conducting casino hearings

Archdiocese Vicar-General Rey Monsanto for his part said the ongoing talks is not only intended for the councilors, saying that the archdiocese plans to submit the position papers they will gather to Pagcor.

He said directing the issues to Pagcor itself would give higher chances that the proposal would be rejected immediately.

"Dili lang ni para sa konseho, in fact atong plano is also to influence Pagcor, atong plano nga atong ihatag kining atong mga position papers sa ila kay sila man gyud mag-decide kung iallow ba gyud, kay usahay, dili na kaayo na sila mo-rely sa decision sa konseho kundili sa katawhan na gyud directly," he said.

"So i-collect namo tanan statements from the church including sa civil society groups ug ipadala sa Pagcor," he added.

Limketkai has expressed their “desire to contribute to the promotion of the City of Cagayan de Oro as a tourist destination for rest, recreation, and entertainment.”

"Our company is applying for a franchise to establish and operate a casino in Limketkai Center," a portion of the letter sent by Limketkai to the City Council reads.

The proposed space will cover 5,377.22 square meters which will connect to its posh hotel, Limketkai Luxe Hotel.

In its letter, Limketkai is asking a resolution from the City Council, “expressing support and no objection to the project.”

In the event that the city council will pass a resolution, Tito Mora, a businessman and a member of the civil society organization, said they will bring the fight to the court and take legal actions.

"Kung napildi ta sa Magtajas ug Pryce, basin karon mudaog ta kay balaod mismos sa Pagcor nga dili pwede ma-aprobahan kung supak ang simbahan," (If we lost with Magtajas and Pryce, maybe now we will win because Pagcor's rules dictates it cannot operate if the church will object) he said.

In 1993, Archbishop Jesus Tuquib and then Cagayan de Oro former mayor Pablo Magtajas led the strong opposition to the establishment of the Pagcor-run casino at the Pryce Plaza Hotel citing local laws banning casinos to operate in the city.

Magtajas subsequently filed a case against Pagcor but the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the latter.

Carl Cababaran, coordinator of the archdiocese's Social Development Center said they will hold more proactive actions such as conducting forums to make the people understand about the casino's ill effects.

Cababaran said they will also schedule a talk with the Limketkai Group and hear their side.

But Ledesma said they will be forced to remove the Eucharistic masses inside the Limketkai mall if the council will approve and construction will push through.

Ledesma also hopes City Mayor Oscar Moreno will be open to talks with the church.

"Wala pa ta nagkahisgut with Mayor Moreno, but hopefully we will talk with him ug ipadayag nga supak gyud mi," (We have not talked with Mayor Moreno yet but hopefully we will talk with him and express our objections) he said. (SunStar Philippines)


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