PGTW: Ditching inconsistent laws

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 16 January 2014, Thursday

Ditching inconsistent laws

Last month, the Malacañang Palace website posted a notice reminding the public about the observance of Rizal Day on December 30 in relation to a law enacted in 1948.

“We also take this opportunity,” the statement added, “to once again remind our government bodies of Republic Act 229, which requires of all institutions, public and private, to lower the Philippine flag to half-mast in solemn commemoration of Dr. Rizal’s ultimate sacrifice on Dec. 30, 1896.”

Flags flying half-mast? That’s quite proper in order to show respect to the man acknowledged as the national hero.

The statement goes on to say, “The same law also strictly forbids cockfighting, horseracing, and jai alai games on this day, with criminal punishment in the form of fines or imprisonment, or both, for any official, citizen, or public or private institution that violates this law.”

Again, this is all very well. What these kinds of entertainment have in common is that they are related to gambling. To suspend these activities on Rizal Day is to strike a properly respectful note and emphasize the significance of the day.

The racing community for one appreciates this law because it gives them a rest on a holiday, which is usually when races are held because fans have the opportunity to visit the racetrack and off-track betting stations then. Races are held six days a week, with experiments from time-to-time for seven-day racing, so the overworked racing folk always welcome a day off.

However, if gambling-related activities are to be forbidden, why not casino gaming too? Weren’t there any casinos around in 1948? Why expressly forbid only those three activities that were huge fads back then?

The reality today is that entertainment scene is vastly different. Cockfighting, while still popular in some areas, does not enjoy the same appeal as it did during the ‘40s. The same goes for jai alai games, which were attended by the elite of the day at the famous Manila Jai Alai  building on Taft Avenue; the game was banned in 1986 after allegations of game fixing cast doubt on its integrity. Horseracing, also a hit during its heyday, caters only to a small niche market today.

Casino gaming, however, is gaining in a big way. The government-sanctioned Pagcor (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.), supervises the operations of casinos in hotels and such venues nationwide and is one of the biggest contributors to the nation’s coffers. The gaming industry is booming, with the opening of the posh facilities of Resorts World, Solaire Resorts, Thunderbird Casinos, and many others hoping to tap into the sort of tremendous market enjoyed by gaming hub Macau.

In other words, if we are talking of gambling activities that are currently enjoyed by a great many people who could be distracted from their observance of Rizal Day if these games were not suspended, then casino gaming should be on top of the list.

For the sake of consistency, Republic Act 229 should be amended to include “all forms of gambling,” otherwise it is discriminatory. And the law should be just and fair to all.

Going further, why not repeal the law? There are so many other forms of entertainment, not just gambling, that can divert people’s attentions from musing upon Rizal and his formidable legacy. “Radyo, TV, at mga lumang komiks,” as the ditty goes, films, concerts, malling, the Internet, and a myriad of other interesting things to see and do.

Moreover, why make the suspension of gambling a requirement only on Rizal Day? Don’t our other national icons such as Andres Bonifacio or Ninoy Aquino deserve such a level of respect as well?

The point is that RA 229 is inconsistent and outdated, and a blot upon the escutcheon of our laws, along with other irrelevant laws such as the Flag Law, RA No. 8491, which forbids, among a laundry list of other offenses, wearing  “the flag in whole or in part as a costume or uniform.”

Tell that to Manny Pacquiao, who proudly wears a Philippine flag jacket from his clothing line to his fights. It makes all Filipinos proud to have our flag displayed on the body of a kababayan acknowledged as one of the world’s greatest athletes. That law should be knocked right out of the ring.

It will take lot of effort to go through all our laws and delete those that no longer serve any affirmative purpose. But little by little, one at a time, such a giant task can be whittled down to size.

Meanwhile, we can remember Rizal every day, not just on December 30, and we needn’t give up our favorite recreations to do so.

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