President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the immediate suspension of e-sabong [online cockfighting] operations following outcry over the industry sparked by the disappearance of dozens of workers and concerns about the social costs of gambling.
“The recommendation of [Interior Secretary Eduardo] Año is to do away with e-sabong, as he cited the validation report coming from all sources. It’s his recommendation and I agree with it, and it is good,” Duterte said in his regular pre-taped Talk to the People public address aired Tuesday.
Duterte earlier directed the DILG chief to conduct a survey on the social impacts of e-sabong on Filipinos after the alleged kidnapping and suspected murder of at least 34 people who had supplied roosters to a licensed e-sabong operator.
“I’ve been hearing [reports]—and the message is loud and very clear—that it was working against our values and the impact that it has on families—it keeps sabungeros up for 24 hours,” the President added.
In one extreme case, a young mother was accused of selling her eight-month-old daughter for about P45,000 to a buyer she contacted through social media in March to pay off e-sabong debts. The police said the girl was later found and the buyer arrested.
Cockfighting is a popular sport in the country, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of traditional arenas where spectators flock to watch roosters wearing bladed spurs fight to the death.
The government instead granted franchises to seven firms to show the bloody contests and take bets online 24 hours a day.
Duterte had previously rejected calls to stop the practice, noting that the roughly P640 million in monthly taxes from the industry were helping to replenish government coffers depleted by the pandemic.
The state-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. said it will implement “immediately” Duterte’s order, even as it acknowledged this will result in revenue losses of about P4 billion to P5 billion this year.
“Pagcor has to implement the President’s decision to stop e-sabong operations immediately. 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,” Pagcor chairperson Andrea Domingo said in a statement Tuesday.
“We will also inform the Commission on Audit [COA] Auditor officially that starting today, there will no longer be revenues collected from e-sabong operations,” Domingo said.
At the Upper Chamber, Senator Francis Tolentino said the suspension order was a “testament” to the political will of the President.
Tolentino, along with Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs chairman Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, earlier spearheaded a series of parallel inquiries over the missing “sabungeros.”
Sen. Grace Poe said Duterte’s directive is a step in the right direction in efforts to give justice to the missing cockfighting aficionados.
“Life and family are always the most important,” Poe said.