The Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs has established that at least seven cases of missing cockfighting aficionados were linked to the controversial online cockfights also called e-sabong.
Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police (PNP) on Friday said it has monitored two more e-sabong websites, bringing the total to 14 online cockfighting channels despite the ban on the activity.
This finding was embodied in the committee’s report which was adopted by the chamber on the last session day of the 18th Congress.
The committee headed by Sen. Ronald dela Rosa particularly inquired into the cases of 34 missing cockfight aficionados and concluded that the disappearances were linked to regular sabong and e-sabong.
The committee recommended 18 administrative and 7 legislative actions to be undertaken relative to the disappearances.
After four separate public hearings, Dela Rosa’s committee established that seven out of 32 missing persons were connected to cockfighting activities.
The committee also noted that there was an emerging pattern in the abductions.
Dela Rosa cited as probable motives game-fixing called “tyope” and the “cloning” of an e-sabong website as in the case of victim Ricardo Lasco Jr, who was reputedly a master agent abducted from his house in San Pablo, Laguna.
In his 77-page committee report, Dela Rosa urged the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) to formulate a mechanism that will deny minors from gaining access to electronic gambling platforms and for money transfer facilities to strictly implement the “Know-Your-Customer” policy.
He recommended the suspension of business permits of cockpit arenas found violating ordinances for installation of CCTV cameras, collection by the Bureau of Internal Revenue of tax dues from e-sabong operators, and no let-up in investigation by the police and the National Bureau of Investigation on cases of the missing individuals.
Dela Rosa also suggested that the Department of Social Welfare and Development should extend assistance to families of missing cockfight aficionados, and the Department of Education to include in the curriculum discussions on the perils of gambling and its nature as a social ill, based on Republic Act No. 11476, otherwise known as the “GMRC and Values Education Act.”
For the legislative actions, Dela Rosa recommended amendments to Presidential Decree No. 449, or the “Cockfighting Law of 1974,” to include strict monitoring of cockfighting activities, increase in penalty for obstruction of justice to deter concealment of a committed crime, passage of a law mandating local government units to install CCTV cameras in off-site betting stations and commercial establishments, and setting-up of a reward system for witnesses of crimes.
Dela Rosa also likened gambling addiction to drug addiction, saying, “Ang pagkalulong sa sugal ay hindi nalalayo sa epekto ng pagkalulong sa droga at iba pang bisyo na dapat nating bigyang importansya at solusyon.”
He reiterated that no amount of money from e-sabong will be more valuable than human life.
“Though e-sabong is an industry known to be raking billions of pesos and is claimed to be of help to the country and community, it will never be as significant and as treasured as compared to the lives of our fellow Filipinos,” Dela Rosa said.
At the Laging Handa public briefing, PNP spokesperson Police Colonel Jean Fajardo added that eight Facebook pages promoting e-sabong have also been monitored.
Likewise, Fajardo said that the PNP has already asked the Department of Information and Technology (DICT), and Facebook to take down these sites and pages.
“Nakipag-ugnayan na rin po tayo sa DICT pati na rin sa pamahalaan ng Facebook para po i-take down po nila at tanggalin yung na-monitor po natin na website pati na rin po eight na Facebook pages,” she said.
(We have coordinated with the DICT and the management of Facebook to take down the websites and pages that we have monitored.)
Fajardo told GMA News Online that only two of the 12 websites are registered in the country while the rest are offshore.
On May 25, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said seven illegal websites streaming e-sabong operations have been taken down.
Following reports on the disappearance of 34 sabungeros, Duterte earlier approved the recommendation of the DILG to stop e-sabong.
Duterte’s decision came after a survey conducted by the DILG in cities and provinces regarding e-sabong operations, which is being blamed for the deterioration of moral values among many Filipinos.