Baguio residents eye ‘People’s Initiative’ to stop gambling

BAGUIO CITY – Residents in the city who openly raised their objection to the conduct of any form of gambling activities in Baguio are eyeing a People’s Initiative to put to rest the possibilities of its operation in the city.

Father Manny Flores, chairman of the Diocese of Baguio and Benguet Social Action Center, in an interview on Thursday, relayed that the different religious groups and civil society who attended the public consultation conducted by the City Council Committee of the Whole on Wednesday have raised their support for a people’s initiative to come up with a resolution or an ordinance that will make the city residents’ stand of “no to gambling” be made permanent and lasting.

He said, “we will resort to this if our representatives do not see us and do not listen to us,” he said.

He, however, expressed confidence that the city council will listen to the people’s voice on their call for the local legislators to rescind the two resolutions “interposing no objection to the request” of Bingo Palace Corporation, Highland Gaming Corporation and RCC Global Entertainment to maintain and operate traditional bingo and e-bingo in a hotel and in two private shopping malls and a government-owned shopping center here.

Atty. Lourdes Tabanda, a former member of the city council, explained that under Section 120, Chapter 2 of the Local Government Code, the people’s initiative is prepared by the residents and will need not less than 1,000 signatures of registered voters to be approved.

The Social Action Center together with different groups in the city has sought the representation of Councilor Maria Mylen Yaranon, a known advocate of “no to gambling”, to file the resolution on May 29 calling for the rescission of the three resolutions approved on May 22, 2017 and December 12, 2016.

Yaranon said “we need to convince them to be on our side, to rescind. I support the people’s initiative. Hindi naman natatapos and laban (the fight does not end) if it’s for the good of the people. Let’s fight whatever is ailing our society.”

She added that there is a public clamor against gambling and she will support that. “We will not stop this fight,” she said.

Aurora Suclad, president of the Baguio-Benguet Ecumenical Group, in a separate interview said that in 2015, they brought to the city council physical evidence of 125,000 signatures of different sectors in the city that they gathered interposing objection to the conduct of gambling activities in Baguio. The compilation of signatures is still safely kept by the Diocese.

She said, “whoever sits in the city council, if they have a sense of history, they should already have a feel of the will of the people of Baguio and they should listen to that”.

She said the battle to stop any form of gambling is a continuing stand of many of the residents of the city. “We have been waging this battle for years, even the anti casino before. The signature campaign was initiated to go against all these forms of gambling in the city.”

For years, Baguio residents have maintained their stand against any form of gambling. Attempts were done to evade it but with the strong opposing stand of residents, operation of casinos was opposed.

A casino operated at Pines Hotel in the 1980s but stopped when the hotel was burned and at the Hyatt Hotel here but it, too stopped when the building was toppled during the 1990 earthquake. Liza Agoot/