MANILA, Philippines — Two senators said on Tuesday that Manila local officials arrested for illegal gambling did not commit any crime for simply sponsoring a bingo game in the city during the weekend.
Senate games and amusements chair Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said Vice Mayor Isko Moreno (real name: Francisco Domagoso) did not need a government-issued franchise since the game was played only in a residential area and among neighbors.
Moreno and the five officials who are running for councilor under the mayoral ticket of former President Joseph Estrada cried harassment after they were arrested by Manila policemen for allegedly offering prizes during a series of bingo games held in Sta. Cruz, Manila, Saturday.
“Let the people play,” Pimentel exclaimed in an ambush interview.
Pimentel added authorities should step in only when those playing bingo become involved in a ruckus, disturb the peace or obstruct traffic.
Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada reminded the policemen who invoked an old Marcos-era decree (P.D. 1902) that this law had already been superseded by Republic Act 9287 signed years ago by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that excluded bingo among illegal numbers games.
Besides, Estrada said Manila cops would not have been bold enough to arrest Moreno and company had Mayor Alfredo Lim not been behind the plan.
“They would not have arrested the local officials na walang basbas ni Mayor Lim (without the blessings of Mayor Lim),” Estrada said in a huddle with Senate reporters on Tuesday.
“Only if the mayor gives the go-signal would cops have the courage to make an arrest because they know they would be backed up. If the mayor disagreed with the plan, the cops realize ilalaglag sila (they could be dumped) and they would not have pushed through with it,” he added.