The ban on government personnel entering, staying and playing in gambling casinos dates back to a decree issued by then President Ferdinand Marcos in the 1970’s and has since been reiterated not only by President Rodrigo Duterte but even earlier, by Presidents Corazon Aquino and Gloria Arroyo.
Manila Mayor Francisco Moreno Domagoso, more popularly known by his screen name Isko Moreno, referred to the ban as a “policy made by President Duterte” when he said he has never visited a casino since he was elected mayor in 2019.
Responding to allegations that he was a gambler, Moreno, 46, a former waste scavenger, told ANC’s morning talk show “Headstart” on Friday that he used to "play" in the casino and on the streets but not since becoming mayor:
Did I play in (a) casino Yes? Did I play in the streets? Yes. Have I been playing in the streets since young? Yes. But am I a gambler? No. Did I go to (a) casino when I was a mayor? No because there is (a) policy made by President Duterte: Bawal lahat ang mga taong gobyerno sa casino (Everyone in government is banned from casinos)…I’m no angel, but I guarantee you I’m no demon. [Watch 36:46–37:20]
In Duterte’s first few months in office, Malacanang issued Memorandum Circular No. 6 ordering all government officials and employees to comply with laws and regulations prohibiting them from entering, staying or playing in gambling casinos.
The order, issued on Sept. 20, 2016, came amid reports that “many government officials and employees, and even members of the AFP and PNP, have been seen in casinos.” It warned violators:
In view of its negative effect on the public perception of government service as a whole, the mere entry or presence of government officials and employees in a gambling casino shall be considered as conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, unlessthe same was in the performance of official duties and functions.
Memorandum Circular No. 6 reiterated the Marcosian decrees that imposed the ban on government personnel entering, staying and playing in casinos, and the post-EDSA issuances reiterating the policy and providing the basis for disciplining civil servants.
Marcos imposed the ban on Jan. 1, 1977 through Presidential Decree No. 1067 when he granted the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) a franchise to establish, operate and maintain gambling casinos in the country.
Section 5 (3-b) specified “persons not allowed to play”:
(a) Government officials connected directly with the operation of the government or any of its agencies.
(b) Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, including the Army, Navy, Air Force or Constabulary.
(c) Persons under 21 years of age or students of any school, college or university in the Philippines.
This provision has been reiterated in Presidential Decree 1869 Marcos issued on July 11, 1983 consolidating Pagcor-related decrees; Memorandum Circular 20 issued on Oct. 8, 1986 by the Aquino administration, and Memorandum Circular 8 issued on Aug. 28, 2001 by the Arroyo administration.
Duterte’s order cited a section in the Administrative Code issued on July 25, 1987 by President Aquino which it said “considers gambling as prohibited by law and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service as grounds for disciplinary actions.”
His order also cited Republic Act No. 6713, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, which mandates public servants to “discharge their duties with utmost responsibility, integrity, competence, and loyalty, act with patriotism and justice, lead modest lives, and uphold public interest over personal interest.”
Moreno on Sept. 22 announced he was running for president next year under the Aksyon Demokratiko party, of which he was elected president in August. Both he and his runningmate, Doc Willie Ong, ran and lost in the 2019 senatorial race.
Government personnel have been known to frequent casinos. Then Vice President Joseph Estrada was caught in a video in September 1996 playing high-stakes baccarat with Charlie “Atong” Ang, in the presence of casino general manager Butch Tenorio at in the VIP lounge of Heritage Hotel Casino.
The video was reportedly leaked by Pagcor video technician Edgar Bentain, who disappeared on Jan. 16, 1999.
Calumpita, R. (2005, February 21). No trace of Erap video ‘leaker.’ Manila Times. https://www.manilatimes.net/2005/02/21/news/top-stories/no-trace-of-erap-video-leaker/699494
Calvento, T. (2009, September 24). Bentain taped Erap as security men slept. Philstar. https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2009/09/24/507789/bentain-taped-erap-security-men-slept
Executive Order No. 292. (1987). Instituting the Administrative Code of 1987. https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/1987/07/25/executive-order-no-292-s-1987/
In The Know: Gov’t officials playing at gambling casinos, (2013, August 16). Philippine Daily Inquirer. https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/466533/in-the-know-govt-officials-playing-at-gambling-casinos
Memorandum Circular No. 20. (1986). Enjoining strict enforcement of P.D. No. 1067-B granting a franchise to the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) to establish, operate and maintain gambling casinos. https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/1986/10/08/memorandum-circular-no-20-s-1986/
Memorandum Circular No. 6. (2016). Enjoining all government officials and employees to strictly observe and comply with the prohibition against going to gambling casinos. https://op-proper.gov.ph/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/MEMORANDUM-CIRCULAR-NO.-06.pdf
Memorandum Circular No. 8. (2001). Enjoining government personnel and all concerned from entering or playing in casinos. https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/2001/08/28/memorandum-circular-no-8-s-2001/
Presidential Decree No. 1067-B. (1977). Granting the Philippine Amusements and Gaming Corporation a franchise to establish, operate, and maintain gambling casinos on land or water within the territorial jurisdiction of the republic of the Philippines. https://www.chanrobles.com/presidentialdecrees/presidentialdecreeno1067-B.html
Presidential Decree No. 1869. (1983). Consolidating and amending Presidential Decree nos. 1067-A, 1067-B, 1067-C, 1399 and 1632, relative to the franchise and powers of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR). https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/1983/07/11/presidential-decree-no-1869-s-1983/
Republic Act No. 6713. (1988). Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees. https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/1989/02/20/republic-act-no-06713/#:~:text=Public%20officials%20and%20employees%20shall,public%20interest%20over%20personal%20interest