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An open letter to IATF on church vs casino seating capacity

/ 05:01 AM September 17, 2020

While the Catholic Church appreciates your decision to allow 10-percent seating capacity to attend religious activities while we are under GCQ, I am saddened that casinos will reopen with a 30-percent seating capacity.

At an average 2,000 slot machines and gaming tables in a casino, 30 percent would mean some 600 people with prolonged contact with each other in an enclosed space where there is said to be a higher risk of getting the coronavirus; while a church with an average of 300 seats, if given 10-percent seating capacity, will mean 30 churchgoers only in an open-space building where social distancing and health protocols could be properly maintained.

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On the other hand, even at a 10-percent seating limit, a casino would still have some 200 patrons given the said average of 2,000 machines and gaming tables.

Thus, I join Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines acting president and Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David in his lamentation that your decision will lead to “a wider road to perdition (as) you gave more importance to the operation of casinos than religious devotions.”

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I hope you did not only consider casino owners’ claim that they were “hit hard” by this pandemic. Even the church is in the same predicament. They are similarly situated. The only difference is that casino owners took the risk of investing a huge sum of money, so they lose more with the advent of an unexpected crisis.

Hence, it is only but fair that if casinos are allowed 30-percent seating capacity, the same privilege should be extended to religious activities. You should consider the fact that once a parishioner takes his seat inside the church, he does not move around as he stays in his pew till the Mass is over.

But a casino player will never be comfortable in one seat alone as he will keep on transferring from one slot machine or one table to another until he finds his lucky machine or table. A Mass lasts for an average of 40 minutes only — the longest time a parishioner would stay inside the church. But a casino player has no time limit as to the number of hours he’d stay in the casino, which makes him more vulnerable to coronavirus infection.

Your guideline should also make clear if senior citizens are allowed to play or enter the casinos because, under your rules, senior citizens are not allowed to leave their residence even for religious activities. But if senior citizens are allowed to enter the casinos, there is no rhyme or reason why they cannot be allowed to leave their houses to attend religious activities.

Finally, I maintain that it is better to have more people praying inside the House of the Lord, than more people playing inside the House of the Gambling Lords, especially in this pandemic period.

ROMULO B. MACALINTAL
Parishioner and Church Server
Last Supper of our Lord Parish
Las Piñas City

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TAGS: casino seating, church seating, coronavirus pandemic, coronavirus philippines, COVID-19, Letters to the Editor, quarantine rules, Romulo B. Macalintal
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