MANILA, Philippines - A Philippine priest has threatened to deny burial rights in cases where mourners at funerals are caught gambling, a tradition exploited by gaming syndicates who mount "fake" wakes.
Father Valentine Dimoc of the Saint Mary Magdalene Parish said authorities in the northern town of Lagawe had already passed an ordinance banning gambling at funeral wakes, but local officials and police were failing to enforce it.
Gambling on cards at funerals is a tradition in the mainly Catholic Philippines, used to help family members pay for the cost of the burial.
However with few opportunities for legitimate gambling due to strict limits on gaming, syndicates have been known to use phoney wakes -- complete with a rented corpse -- to hold gaming sessions.
Father Dimoc said of the authorities in Lagawe: "The local government unit’s ordinance against gambling is what should be implemented for the common good, but sometimes the power is not used by political leaders and law enforcers."
Under his own pastoral edict, funeral masses will be withheld for dead parishioners whose relatives allow gambling during the wake.
The new rule "is pastoral in nature, in response to a social and moral issue in a particular place," the priest said in comments carried by the bishops' conference website, www.cbcponline.net.
Under Philippine law, public gambling apart from activities operated by the state such as casinos is banned, except at funeral wakes where people may place bets on card games. Part of the bets are set aside for the bereaved family to cover their costs.