Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged the Duterte government to address the increasing number of kidnapping incidents associated with high-stakes gambling in the country to prevent gamblers from falling prey to loan shark syndicates.
De Lima, who chairs the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, said the manhunt against kidnapping groups should be intensified to bring them to justice and stop them from victimizing more people.
“Since casino-related kidnapping is fast becoming a lucrative business that remained unchecked, the government must show that it is exerting all efforts to reduce the cases of, if not eradicate, casino-related kidnappings and holding loan shark syndicates accountable for their crimes,” she said.
“Likewise, appropriate criminal cases should be filed against the suspects because one, we don’t want more gamblers to be held against their will and second, we don’t want more records of crimes in a country where impunity reigns, thanks to Mr. Duterte and his army of criminals,” she added.
Last March 11, anti-crime watchdog Movement for Restoration of Peace and Order (MRPO) raised alarm over the rising number of kidnapping incidents perpetrated by loan shark syndicates by revealing that it has already documented a total of 23 victims since 2018.
For this year alone, MRPO added it has already recorded eight casino-related kidnapping incidents from January to February – or an average of two victims a month –which does not include many other cases where the victims did not report to authorities.
In victimizing gamblers, MRPO pointed out that kidnapping groups would normally induce the former to borrow money at casinos and later detain them while asking their relatives for should they fail to repay gambling debts.
“What I find extremely alarming is the use of physical torture to victims to force them to release large amount of money or ask their relatives here or abroad to do so, in exchange for their freedom, as this can lead to death,” De Lima said.
Among the reported scenario where the victim ended up dead includes the case of Chinese national gambler Charlie Chua whose body was recovered from a creek in General Trias City after he went missing last February 20.
With the continued rise of casino hotels and online gaming sites, the lady Senator from Bicol reiterated the need for the government to re-examine and possibly revise laws regulating the operations of these establishments.
“In Senate Resolution (SR) No. 953 which I filed last year, I’ve mentioned that the country’s loose regulatory policies to monitor casino establishments make the Philippines more susceptible to other crimes and illegal activities that are not limited to kidnapping, including money laundering and fraud, among others,” she said.
According to De Lima, the crimes and illegal activities related to casino-entertainment hotels and/or resorts and online gambling only shows the utmost need for the government to investigate these concerns.
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