STAUNCH anti-gambling advocate Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz has strongly opposed moves in the House of Representatives to expand the operations of the small town lottery (STL) on a nationwide scale to generate additional revenues for the government.
Cruz, founder of the Krusada ng Bayan Laban sa Jueteng, maintained the culture of gambling does not only erode the moral fiber of the people but creates as well a culture of laziness.
House Minority Leader Rep. Danilo Suarez of the Third District of Quezon province pushed for the expansion of the STL during last week’s budget briefing of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), which operates the game, among other numbers games.
Suarez pointed out gambling can no longer be eradicated as it is already a way of life for Filipinos, thus “we might as well earn from it.”
But Cruz said there were many other decent sources of livelihood and income-generating programs that the government can tap other than the STL.
“There are many other means of livelihood. Because if gambling will be considered a job, why can’t we make prostitution one as well? Why can’t we make sleazy shows, night club [shows]a job? We should give decent jobs, not jobs that destroy our morality,” Cruz said in an interview over the weekend with Church-run Radio Veritas.
The STL was first introduced in 2005 in select areas in Luzon to help in the campaign to stamp out jueteng, an illegal numbers game.
Suarez claimed that the STL proved effective because it is transparent and could not be rigged unlike jueteng.
During its first year of operations, the STL generated more than P3 billion in revenues, creating about 62,500 jobs and livelihood to people displaced by the campaign against jueteng.
The PCSO’s revenues ballooned to P4.7 billion in 2014, P4.8 billion in 2015 and P1.231 billion in the first quarter of 2016 out of STL operations in 14 provinces and four cities.
At present, STL outlets employ more than 180,000 people.
Suarez said that if implemented nationwide, STL would generate more than 1.5 million jobs and P152 billion a year in revenues for the government.
But Cruz pointed out that even if the STL is legal, it is still a form of gambling, which the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) strongly opposes.
“Gambling that is organized, widespread and systemic, whether legal or illegal, is not desirable. It creates a culture that seriously erodes the moral value of our people,” the CBCP said.
WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL