Revenue or the nation’s moral fiber?

SENTINEL - Ramon T. Tulfo - The Philippine Star

This is the perfect time to review the controversial e-sabong or electronic betting on cockfights.

The Senate, which is investigating the pros and cons of e-sabong, is caught between a rock and a hard place.

Here are the pros:

The game is earning much needed revenues for the government.

If e-sabong can’t be stopped since it has already gained a foothold in our society, then it should be regulated, said Sen. Frank Drilon.

“The reported one to two billion a day earned from the electronic gaming is mind-boggling, and the government should get part of the proceeds,” the senator said.

Drilon’s mind would be boggled even more had he heard from my source that the daily bets from e-sabong was P20 billion!

Somebody in the cockfight circles told this columnist that the daily bets from e-sabong is P20 billion, not P1 to 2 billion as reported to senators investigating the proliferation of this type of online gambling.

If my source was telling the truth or not exaggerating, then the P20-billion daily bets would indeed overwhelm the mind.

Charlie “Atong” Ang, owner of one of seven e-sabong firms, said his monthly gross income was P3 billion out of a total of P60-billion monthly bets.

Ang said that the P3 billion is five percent of the P60-billion monthly bets.

But if we base the gross daily bets of P20 billion, which is a total P600 billion a month, then the P3 billion a month that Ang claims his firm gets is a pittance!

And here are the cons:

Schoolchildren, tricycle drivers, housemaids: these are among the people who have become addicted to betting on cockfights via electronic means, or e-sabong.

They are legion, innumerable; meaning they can’t be counted easily.

And part of the money earned from these small people by e-sabong operators is given to the police, some local officials, legislators and executive department officials.

Therefore, e-sabong engenders corruption.

President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte said he would suspend the operation of e-sabong, but changed his mind several days later.

What changed Digong’s mind is now the subject of speculation. Probably some friends prevailed upon him. It’s also possible he was told of the lost revenues daily from e-sabong which the government badly needs at this time.

But which is more important: the earnings from e-sabong or the moral fiber of the nation?

Already some people in the know say that addiction to e-sabong is as pernicious as drug addiction – even worse – since the former is legal. And what is lawful, even if it’s immoral, can’t be stopped.

The evil that is born from electronic cockfight betting can destroy the moral fiber of society, which may be seen in the following: broken families, schoolchildren being introduced to gambling early in life, theft or robbery to finance the gambling vice or addiction. An example of the latter is the policeman, addicted to e-sabong, who was arrested for robbery.

*      *      *

Now that the end of President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte’s term is three months away, I expect him to keep his word that he would pardon retired Army Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan and former Manila police Capt. Rey Jaylo.

The President made the promise to me two years ago. I had asked Digong to pardon Palparan as he was convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, and Jaylo, who was following orders when he committed murder.

Palparan is serving a life sentence at the New Bilibid Prison while Jaylo, who is a fugitive of justice, was sentenced to life imprisonment years ago.

Palparan was convicted by the Bulacan Regional Trial Court in 2018 of the kidnapping of two coeds of the University of the Philippines (UP) who were suspected of being communist insurgents.

The retired general, who was a nemesis of the New People’s Army (NPA) when he was in the service, was – to my mind – wrongfully charged with the kidnapping of Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan. Both were never found.

Palparan was convicted based on the testimony of Raymond Manalo, a suspected insurgent, who could not prove in court that the general ordered the kidnapping.

The general was not seen at the scene of the kidnapping.

The judge, Alexander Tamayo, took the suspected rebel at his word.

I’m surprised why president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who once called Palparan “my hero,” didn’t pardon the general before she stepped down.

(Take note: Palparan is not my friend; I was his admirer as a nemesis of the NPA.)

On the other hand, Jaylo, whom I knew as a patrolman when I covered the Manila Police beat as a reporter for the Manila Bulletin, was a good subordinate.

His being a good subordinate got him into trouble.

Jaylo was convicted of killing Army Col. Rolando de Guzman, then the intelligence chief of the Northern Luzon Command, and his aide, Maj. Avelino Manguerra, in 1990.

De Guzman and Manguerra were caught in possession of 10 kilos of heroin in a buy-bust operation by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) at the Magallanes Commercial Center.

The NBI, which was then headed by former Manila Police chief Brig. Gen. Alfredo Lim, was tipped off by the US Drug Enforcement Agency about the heroin shipment.

De Guzman and Manguerra were shot dead when they were already in custody.

From the accounts on the incident, the two ranking military officers, both graduates of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), already had their hands raised when they were killed.

The order to Jaylo to kill De Guzman and Manguerra allegedly came from NBI director Lim via a two-way radio.

Captain Jaylo was on loan to the NBI from the then Western (Manila) Police District upon Lim’s request.

Asked why he obeyed an unlawful order, Jaylo’s reply was, “Mon, you can never disobey an order from Chiquito (Lim’s moniker).”

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