By Dexter A. See
BAGUIO CITY — The Baguio Multi-Sectoral Group, an umbrella organization of religious associations in this mountain resort city, will spearhead the opposition to the operation of a casino in Camp John Hay here.
BMSG will gather at least 80,000 signatures to pressure national and local officials into abandoning a plan to operate the high-end gambling joint in CJH.
BMSG decided to launch the signature campaign and mass protest against the casino after it obtained a copy of a supposed contract between the Bases Conversion Development Authority and Fil-Estate Penta Capital Corp. on the plan to establish a casino in the world-class recreation facility.
Lawyer Alexander Bangsoy, BMG spokesman, said the supposed contract was signed last year but its existence was confirmed by the group only last week when it got a copy of the deal.
Due to the existence of the agreement, Bangsoy said, various sectors reacted and decided to conduct mass actions to voice out their opposition to the casino operation in CJH.
In 2004, the group, together with the academe and civic organizations in the city, had succeeded to abort the plan to establish a casino when it led a mass protest and gathered over 100,000 signatures.
The religious leaders are confident they can duplicate the successful drive with a big crowd and more signatures.
At the same time, the concerned sectors will be closely watching every move of the city officials in connection with the plan for the operations of the casino.
Under the agreement, BCDA will help Fil-Estate secure a franchise from the Philippine Amusement Gaming Corp. to operate a casino in CJH.
The group is hoping that Mayor Reinaldo A. Bautista Jr. will make good his pronouncement that there will be no casino operation during his stint as the city’s chief executive.
As of March 23, the city government had yet to receive a formal application or letter of intent from any group interested to operate a casino in the city.
The city council recently passed a resolution requesting concerned authorities to investigate the alleged casino operation or presence of high-stakes, on-line gambling in CJH, a former American rest and recreation center.
But the Baguio City Police Office and the National Bureau of Investigation have not yet come out with a report on the alleged high-stakes, on-line gambling.
During the past administrations, the city government had been issuing statements and resolutions opposing all forms of gambling in the city.
It was noted, however, that it was not able to stop the proliferation of lotto outlets and bingo games as well as other forms of illegal gambling in the city.(Northern Philippine Times)