IN July this year, the Senate inquiry on the cars granted by Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) to a couple of bishops has shown that the supposedly well-crafted PR work of PCSO to demolish the church (that is staunchly against the legislation of the Reproductive Health Bill) was not too well-crafted after all—it backfired. Cans of worms were opened and the public saw how this gambling institution has misused hefty funds for purposes other than those allowed by its Charter—including intelligence work, advertizing and, allegedly, electioneering.
But it did not stop there. A few days ago, the PCSO leadership started a new tirade. This time, it threatened to delist the erstwhile favorite charity beneficiaries—the religious organizations. Names of church institutions were exposed together with the amount of money they have been receiving from gambling.
And this is where a more serious issue looms.
Since 1996, the Bishops have already issued four pastoral statements strongly discouraging the use gambling money for charitable work for the poor. In its latest statement on gambling issued in 2005, the bishops says: “For it is most unfortunate that in our situation of poverty today public funds gained from legal gambling are often the only resource for the poor to be assisted adequately. Even if this were so, the CBCP does not encourage this manner of helping the poor. It could easily be construed as approving and promoting the culture of gambling and thereby scandalize the faithful.”
Understandably enough, some church people would rationalize receiving money even from devil himself if only to help the poor. But on closer scrutiny, in the Philippine context nobody helps poor people by giving them a short term relief that gambling money provides. Rather, the poor becomes even poorer, because a short-term provision cannot redeem a long-term devastation to the psyche of the poor that has wallowed deep into the culture of gambling. When one becomes such, he loses his capability for industry, his right sense of values and finally his dignity.
The bishops’ 2005 statements says it better: “However, applying the general moral principle to the specific Philippine situation, the CBCP has deemed it necessary to state on several occasions that the form of gambling that is organized, widespread, and systemic, whether legal or illegal, is not desirable. It is creating a culture of gambling that is seriously eroding the moral values of our people. In its illegal form, especially jueteng, gambling has bred a clandestine network of corruption that feeds itself on the hundreds of millions of pesos lost to gambling especially by the poor.”
Time now for a few church people to part with PCSO and the pseudo-charity that gambling money provides.