Continued e-sabong operations now illegal — DILG

Angelica Y. Yang - Philstar.com
Continued e-sabong operations now illegal � DILG
Television showing feeds of cockfight events.
Philstar.com / Irish Lising

MANILA, Philippines  The continued operations of e-sabong or the online betting on live cockfights is now prohibited, with violators facing arrest and legal charges, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said Wednesday. 

This comes a day after President Rodrigo Duterte declared that he is putting an end to e-sabong operations, citing its social impact to Filipinos.

"Continuing to operate e-sabong at this time would be illegal so those who continue to defy the suspension of e-sabong can face arrest and can be charged in court," DILG Undersecretary and Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said in an interview with ANC Headstart on Wednesday. 

They expect all authorized betting stations related to e-sabong, and the studios where the physical cockfights are recorded to be closed. 

Malaya said that the DILG, its attached agency Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) will be working together "to stop the operations to e-sabong."

The e-sabong industry generates P640 million a month in revenues for the Philippine government, which is why Duterte earlier defended its operations before making his announcement to halt the online betting activities. 

READ: Duterte: E-sabong revenues needed since COVID-19 depleted other funds

Traditional sabong to continue

While the government is ending e-sabong, traditional sabong will continue. 

"We don't have a problem there... We would rather have the traditional sabong because these are held on definite times and it's usually on a Sunday or during a holiday and you don't get to bet 24 hours a day," he said.

According to Malaya, those displaced by e-sabong can return to the traditional face-to-face sabong, which is allowed to operate under Alert Level 1. 

The Pagcor regulates e-sabong, while the local government units oversee the traditional cockfighting games.

Pagcor Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Andrea Domingo earlier said they have to implement the President's immediate order to stop e-sabong operations. 

"The Executive Secretary will issue a formal memorandum to this effect and we will serve the appropriate notice to the Pagcor regulated e-sabong operators," she said in a statement on Tuesday. 

Meanwhile, the PNP, through its spokesperson Jean Fajardo, said Tuesday that they will wait for the official instructions on how to implement the order.

'President had doubts about e-sabong'

Malaya said that Duterte already had doubts about e-sabong from the beginning, citing its social impact, which is why he instructed DILG Secretary Eduardo Ano to determine public sentiment about e-sabong operations through a survey. 

The survey, conducted from April 19 to 20, considered the insights of over 8,400 respondents, with majority or 62% saying they were against e-sabong. 

Some reasons why they were not in favor of the betting activity is that it can cause addiction, bankruptcy, separation from family, and neglect of work or studies. 

Malaya also said that those below 21 years old — the minimum age requirement for registering as a bettor in e-sabong — were skirting the rules.

Duterte earlier said he was following the recommendation of Ano based on the findings of this survey. 

"[Duterte] was concerned about the lost revenue from e-sabong but when we saw that the public was very worried about this and that the public was concerned about the social cost, I think that tipped his decision to suspending the operations of e-sabong," Malaya said. 

Earlier this year, a Senate panel held four hearings on the disappearances of over 30 individuals reportedly linked to e-sabong activities. In Feb., senators filed a resolution urging Pagcor to suspend e-sabong operations until they find adequate answers to what happened to the missing sabungeros. 

In response to the resolution, Malacañang issued a memorandum which ordered the PNP and National Bureau of Investigation to investigate the disappearances, but allowed e-sabong activities to go on. 

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