Senate should focus on social cost of e-sabong — Lacson

Philstar.com staff - Philstar.com
Senate should focus on social cost of e-sabong � Lacson
E-sabong involves remote betting on cockfights.

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate should focus on tackling the social cost of the e-sabong rather than its revenues, according to Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, who noted that Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) was concerned about their monthly income of P1.4 billion from online cockfighting after lawmakers pushed to suspend the industry. 

Lacson, who is vying for the presidency in this year's elections, was among the 23 senators who earlier signed a resolution urging e-sabong regulator Pagcor to suspend the licenses of e-sabong firms amid investigations on the disappearances of 31 online cockfighting aficionadoes.

In response to the Senate's resolution, President Rodrigo Duterte's office ordered agencies, including the police force, to conduct investigations and check for the compliance of the e-sabong licensees, but allowed the industry to continue.

"I am against [e-sabong operations] because of its social cost... I hope that the next time Senate tackles this, we will focus on this context (social cost), and not the revenues from the industry," Lacson said in Filipino during an interview over Radyo5 on Friday.

According to him, Pagcor, which generates monthly revenues of P1.4 billion from e-sabong operations, has earlier expressed concern on the industry's possible suspension.

"In Laguna, there was a provincial director who told me that a patrol man was mired in debt because of betting activities. It reached a point where he held up a gasoline station and 7-11 convenience store [to pay off his debts]. He was caught and jailed. This is the social cost [of e-sabong]," he explained. 

For him, the government can still collect taxes from people who use their money to buy other goods, instead of spending it on betting in cockfights. 

Last year, the House of Representatives passed a measure granting a 25-year franchise to gaming aficionado Atong Ang's Lucky 8 Star Quest Inc., an online cockfighting firm which operates the Pitmasters Live games. 

Lawmakers in the Lower House voted 161-2, approving the bill on the third reading. 

Asked for his comment about an e-sabong firm receiving approval from the House for a legislative franchise, Lacson on Friday said e-sabong is not considered a public utility which requires such.

"I am not a lawyer but I've read the Constitution which clearly says that e-sabong is not a public utility," he said. 

The Senate is currently holding investigations on the disappearances of 31 individuals linked to e-sabong activities. 

The earliest reported disappearance of four sabungeros happened on April 28, 2021. Meanwhile, the latest one, where six people were allegedly kidnapped, took place on January 13, 2022. — Angelica Y. Yang

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