Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte delivered on Monday his second state of the nation address, which was basically the same as last year—justifying his campaign against drugs, crackdown on corruption, improving the country’s infrastructure while denying allegations of human rights violations.
In a two-hour litany of his supposed accomplishments during his first year in office, Duterte lashed out at his critics, the United States, and the mainstream media for putting his administration in the bad light instead of cooperating with him.
Surprisingly, Duterte spared the Philippine gambling industry from a tongue-lashing in this year’s state address.
If you recall, Duterte issued a marching order to stamp out online gambling in the Southeast Asian country on his first day in office. He reiterated his war on online gambling in his first State of the Nation Address last year.
Who would forget that fateful day when every gambling operator held their breath after Duterte made a surprise announcement that he would ask the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) to rescind the online gambling licenses it has issued? Former PhilWeb Chairman Roberto Ongpin must be haunted by the president’s words until now.
Things, however, are different this year. During Monday’s state address, there wasn’t a single mention of the word gambling or casino in the august halls of the country’s House of Representatives. Duterte, who presents himself as an anti-establishment firebrand, stopped picking on the industry that remits billions of pesos to the state coffers.
To be fair, many gambling reforms were rolled out during Duterte’s first year in office, spearheaded by the state regulator and its chairman, Andrea Domingo.
In February, Duterte signed an executive order which not only beefed up the government’s fight against illegal gambling but also clarified the extent of authority for the regulation and licensing of online gambling operations.
Duterte’s rise to power gave casino operators renewed hope to become the next big Asian casino hub as high-stakes Chinese gamblers returned to the Southeast Asian island nation due to improved relations between the two countries.
The Philippine president may have stopped picking on the gambling industry for now but his term has just begun. A lot may still happen in the next five years. The man, after all, is infamous for his unpredictability.