President Rodrigo Duterte has rejected calls to suspend the operations of e-sabong or online cockfighting, citing the billions in revenue it generates.
In his regular public address, the President said lawmakers would understand his position if they had an idea of just how much e-sabong generated in terms of revenue, adding the government needed the money.
The President issued the statement after Congress called for the suspension of e-sabong operations.
Twenty-three senators have signed Resolution 996 urging the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation to suspend the license to operate of e-sabong operators and immediately stop all related activities until the cases of the 34 missing cockfighting aficionados are resolved.
“I appeal to congressmen to stop meddling with it. It is generating revenue, no one is benefitting there except Pagcor and the big players,” the President said.
Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa expressed dismay over Duterte’s decision but said he respects it.
Dela Rosa, chairperson of the Senate public order committee, has been leading the inquiry into the missing cockpit aficionados.
Dela Rosa’s committee has held two hearings on the issue. It was during the first hearing that the Senate issued a resolution urging Pagcor to suspend e-sabong operations, which a representative from the agency supported.
Pagcor chairman Andrea Domingo said the government was able to collect around P3.69 billion from gaming operations of eight e-sabong licensees from April to December 2021.
From January to March 15, 2022, there was a collection of around P1.37 billion from the operations of seven licensees, Domingo added.
Domingo said two of eight e-sabong operators had been suspended following their failure to comply with their “financial obligations.”
“That is why I did not react immediately and ordered the suspension because of the income that the government derives from allowing this kind of game to go online in public,” Duterte said.
Duterte said suspension, or even limiting the operations of the online gambling scheme, would result in the reduction of billions of income.
“I will choose now between losing income by the billions. It’s such a waste. We don’t have money. We’re short on money,” Duterte said.
Duterte, however, expressed concern over the case of missing aficionados, saying he would let law enforcement agencies act on the issue.
“I’m sad that they went missing. I don’t know. I really do not know. Maybe because there’s really widespread game fixing. If there’s no reason, why would they go missing? The number of people missing is too high,” he said.
Duterte expressed confidence that law enforcers would be able to resolve the cases of the missing individuals.
To date, the PNP and the NBI have been investigating the issue as directed by the President through Executive Sec. Samuel Medialdea.