Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is encouraging his countrymen to, “Go ahead and gamble,” after years of discouraging the activity as a moral vice. It’s a moral turnaround that’s based solely on a desire to shore up his country’s cash reserves and illustrates the serious impact the pandemic is having on the economies of countries across the globe.
The Philippines have played host to a thriving gaming industry that’s been focused almost exclusively on foreign customers, since online gambling remained mostly illegal until earlier this year. That industry, which employs thousands of foreign workers, has been the target of the strongman’s mercurial temper and moral rantings on multiple occasions. But despite the president’s personal opposition to gambling, the industry been has always been tolerated so long as it’s bringing in cash and only served foreigners.
Duterte has long opposed domestic gambling, but the ravages of the pandemic on the Phillipines’ economy have caused the president to have a change of heart. In an address delivered at a PDP–Laban party conference. Duterte said the country’s cash reserves were running low and that gambling revenue could help rebuilt them.
“Go ahead and gamble. When I was President before, I said ‘I don’t want to gamble’ and I never allowed it. But when the pandemic came, we ran out of money. We have a reserve which we have used to contain the virus from rampaging all throughout the country,” he said in a statement reported on by iGaming Business.
Duterte went on to point out that the country’s need for cash simply outweighed his moral objections to gambling as a whole. Since Duterte came to power in 2016, thousands of suspected drug users and drug dealers have been killed by extrajudicial mobs that were egged on by the President.