Solon: Mandaue cockpit raid “misappreciation of law”
Gregg M. Rubio (The Freeman) - August 20, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — A Cebuano partylist lawmaker, who is a revered gamefowl breeder and sportsman, has described the recent raid of a cockpit in Mandaue City that led to the arrest of 370 bettors and cockpit employees as misappreciation of the law.

Ako Bisaya Party List Representative Sonny Lagon said Presidential Decree (PD) 449 or the Cockfighting Law of 1974 had been superseded by PD 1802-A, which empowered the local government units to regulate regular cockfighting.

PD 449 was issued by President Ferdinand Marcos during Martial Law when the power to regulate cockfighting was given to the Philippine Constabulary which was already abolished decades ago.

In January 16, 1981, Marcos issued PD 1802 to empower the Philippine Gamefowl Commission to supervise international derbies, among other powers, and, on the same day, PD 1802-A was issued which contained only one provision to empower the LGUs to regulate regular cockfight.

Lagon said that from the circumstances surrounding the issuance of PD 1802-A, it is unmistakable that the intention of the president was to transfer the power of regulation over regular cockfighting from the PC, which is the Philippine National Police now, to the LGUs and this policy was later reiterated in Section 447 of the Local Government Code on the basis of the Constitution’s policy of promoting local autonomy.

“From these premises, it is therefore unmistakable that PD 449 can no longer be enforced as it was already superseded by PD 1802-A and the Local Government Code,” Lagon emphasized.

Lagon said that PD 1802 fully empowered the Gamefowl Commission, now the Games and Amusement Board, to regulate international derbies with no limitations on the days that they can be conducted.

He said that derbies can be held outside of licensed cockpits as long as they are not on public buildings and it therefore follows that cockfights can now be held also on any days, not only Sundays and holidays as previously provided by PD 449 as long as the host LGUs have their ordinance on cockfighting and the promoters secure permits from them.

“This policy is the more appropriate because cockpits cannot survive if they operate only during Sundays and holidays. Their overhead expenses are huge and they cannot be covered with a once-a-week operations,” Lagon said.

Besides, there are only one or two cockpits per city or municipality depending on population so it is really impractical as cockpits cannot accommodate even half of the cockfighting aficionados if they operate only once a week, Lagon added

He stressed that if there is no demand on certain days, cockpits will not operate because doing so will only lead to losses.

“It is, therefore, a pity that despite the more recent legislations on the matter, PD 449 is enforced, but only in Cebu and Central Visayas. It is common knowledge that majority of cockpits in the country operate on certain days during the week because of strong demand. Even in Davao City, we can easily confirm this so it is quite perplexing that PD 449 is enforced only in Cebu and Central Visayas,” Lagon continued.

Lagon, however, clarified that he is not blaming the authorities for the raid on Mandaue cockpit as the operation may have just been done on the basis of an honest misappreciation of the law.

“I am outraged, but what can I do if they will say that they were just performing their duties based on the honest belief that PD 449 is still valid? There is that presumption of regularity in the performance of public functions,” Lagon lamented.

As someone who is looked up to in the gamefowl industry, Lagon said he felt obliged to do something to clarify the seeming confusion because hundreds of thousands of Filipinos rely on the industry for their livelihood and majority of them come from the urban poor which Ako Bisaya PL represents.

“Looy pud and mga pobre nga nanginabuhi sa cockfighting industry sama sa mga kuyme, mananari, masyador, mananahi, mga gagmay nga negosyante nga naninda sa mga buwangan, mga empleyado sa mga buwangan ug mga kompanya nga nag-manufacure og feeds and veterinary products. Daghan kaayo ang apektado kung mamatay ang gamefowl industry,” Lagon added.

Lagon has earlier filed House Bill 2625 to erase any doubts on the validity of PD 449 and set uniform standards in the conduct of the sport to ensure fairness to its patrons and enhance the government’s share on the proceeds of the industry to boost its charitable programs for the poor.

He emphasized that the law governing the industry which has shown tremendous growth over the years must be updated to address new challenges and maximize new opportunities.

“We must acknowledge that sabong is a part of the Filipino’s identity and way of life. We have inherited it from our forefathers and now it has become a significant contributor to the national economy. We need to protect the industry for the benefit of all stakeholders especially those who entirely rely on it for their livelihood. Of equal importance is the task of installing standards to prevent abuse and ensure that the government gets its fair share,” Lagon said. (FREEMAN)

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