Catholic bishops have spoken out against the growing casino industry in the face of a money laundering scandal that has rocked the country’s gaming and financial systems.
The bishops entered the first day after Easter by expressing concern over a bank heist that exposed the Philippines as a dirty money destination.
The prelates were referring to the USD81 million stolen from Bangladesh that went into a commercial bank in the Philippines, and from there, to a local money-transfer firm, and then into the casinos.
In a statement titled “Money Laundering in the Gambling Republic“, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines said “no one pulls off a criminal stunt like this alone,” hinting that syndicates may have colluded with bank executives and even public officials.
“Casinos of course can be avenues of money-laundering, and it is just not possible to include within legislation whatever means criminals, in their ingenuity, may make use of to make proceeds of criminal activity take on the appearance of legitimate currency and earnings,” Villegas said.
The bishops lamented how gambling, particularly online betting, continue to thrive in the country even if many countries have already made them illegal, criminal even.
Villegas said many foreigners make their way into the country only to place online bets and indulge in the varied forms that this “detestable activity” takes.
Repeatedly, they said, large-scale and organized gambling has been linked to organized crime—like money laundering.
However, they lamented, casinos continue to flourish because the government allowed them to do so.
“And while we are not prepared to say that all gambling in the Philippines is crime-related, we are alarmed at the seeming lukewarmness on the part of government and civil society at dealing with these forms of high-stakes, high-risk gambling,” stressedVillegas.
The Church reiterated its position against casinos, emphasizing that gambling and upright moral values cannot flourish side by side.
“It is common knowledge that fortunes have been lost, families have been wrecked, futures shattered at casino tables,” Villegas said. (Roy Lagarde/CBCPNews)