THE Aquino Administration is to be blamed for the laundering of $81 million because of its propensity to open casinos and support for gambling, according to a Catholic Church leader.
Batangas Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Permanent Committee on Public Affairs (CBCP-PCPA), on Wednesday said that because of the proliferation of casinos, the Philippines has become the favorite spot to launder money derived from drugs, heists and other illegal sources.
“That’s the label of the [Aquino] administration. Casinos that were denied entry in the past were allowed by this administration,” Arguelles noted over Church-run Radyo Veritas.
“That is why there are issues of money laundering because of the absence of transparency in casinos. Some people may be dealing in illegal activities through the casinos, which is immoral. Gambling is immoral, it is the source of illegal transactions,” the prelate said.
At least six casinos, including the City of Dreams, Midas and Solaire, are being investigated by the Senate in connection with the money-laundering scandal.
Anti-gambling advocate Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz called on the CBCP leadership to come up with an official statement on the involvement of casinos on money-laundering.
Cruz is the founder of the group Anti-Gambling Crusader and a former president of the CBCP.
He said gambling is evil, thus it is important to warn the public against its bad effects.
Any form of gambling, Cruz noted, is not desirable because it creates a culture that seriously erodes the moral value of the people.
There are at least 40 casinos in the country.
Pope Francis had reminded Catholic priests not to accept donations that come from casinos and other illicit activities.
Sen. Miriam Defensor -Santiago also on Wednesday vowed that she will certify as urgent a bill expanding the coverage of the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) to include casinos if she becomes President.
Santiago, who is running under the People’s Reform Party, said the $81- million fiasco highlights the urgent need to require casinos to report questionable deals to the Anti-Money Laundering Council.
“If the casino sector remains outside of the coverage of AMLA, the Philippines risks becoming the world’s money laundering capital,” the senator added.
Santiago said the AMLA amendment is necessary for the Philippines to keep out of the blacklist of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global body against money laundering and terrorist financing.
The senator also vowed to match the lobby from the casino sector with political will.
“Filipinos should elect a President who will not bow to the whims of big business, to the detriment of public interest,” Santiago said.