Duterte defends e-sabong

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Duterte defends e-sabong
E-sabong involves remote betting on cockfights.

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte is not inclined to heed calls to suspend online cockfighting operations, saying it generates revenues needed to support the government’s programs.

During a public address aired yesterday, Duterte said he allowed the operations of e-sabong because the government is “short of money.”

“My appeal to Congress is do not meddle in it. It is generating revenues,” the President said.

“We do not have money. We are short of money. That’s why I allowed it, even the POGO (Philippine offshore gaming operations). I will admit that I really gave the imprimatur. And the only reason is, as I said, because it gives income to the government. That’s all there is to it for us here,” he added.

Senators have urged Duterte to suspend the permits of online cockfights or e-sabong following the disappearance of 31 cockfight enthusiasts.

Earlier this month, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea issued a memorandum directing the police and the National Bureau of Investigation to probe the disappearances and to submit their findings within 30 days.

The memorandum also ordered the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) to investigate if there are violations of e-sabong licences but did not halt the operations of online cockfighting.

Duterte said lawmakers would understand his position if they see the revenues collected from online cockfighting. He claimed that online cockfights would continue through illegal means even if he suspends it.

PAGCOR chair Andrea Domingo said the recorded income from e-sabong from April to December 2021 was P3.69 billion. She noted that the gaming regulator only collects regulatory fees.

Domingo said PAGCOR is expected to collect about P7.2 billion to P8 billion from e-sabong operations this year. More than P1.37-billion has been collected from seven online cockfighting licensees from January to March 15, she added.

Social cost

Presidential candidate Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the social cost of online betting on cockfights is much higher than the foregone revenue of the popular pastime.

“Many (overseas Filipino workers) can’t go home because they have no more money for fare because of e-sabong. Many young people are now addicted to it; some have committed suicide. There are policemen who stage hold-ups. That’s what’s happening now,” Lacson told reporters in a press conference in Maddela, Quirino province.

He said if Malacañang has no intention of suspending e-sabong operations, the online cockfights must be strictly regulated and there must be ways for the government to squeeze more revenues from the game he claimed generates at least P1 billion in gross bets a day.

Lacson said it would also be better if the cockfights are not held 24 hours a day and done “offsite,” or not online. – Paolo Romero

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