Senator Francis Tolentino on Monday castigated the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) leadership for allowing the operation of e-sabong (online cockfighting) even during Good Friday.
Tolentino was angered that e-sabong operations continue to proliferate during traditional holidays.
“There was a gross violation of our faith. I don’t know why it was done,” Tolentino said during the fourth hearing on the mysterious disappearances of more than 34 cockfighting aficionados.
Tolentino told the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs that he got reports that e-sabong was “business as usual” for Pitmasters Live owned by gambling tycoon Charlie ‘Atong’ Ang even on Good Friday.
He noted that Ang’s agency even carried out more than 200 matches (sultada) while other commercial establishments across the country were closed in deference to the Holy Week.
Tolentino stressed that “PAGCOR slept on its job” and forgot that they were supposed to regulate as they claimed they were doing.
“While majority of PAGCOR-operated casinos were closed on Good Friday, he pointed out the country’s gambling regulatory agency neglected its duty by allowing the e-sabong operators to desecrate religious traditions,” Tolentino told the panel chaired by Sen. Ronald dela Rosa.
Dela Rosa agreed to Tolentino’s manifestation, adding that such acts made by the e-sabong operators and the negligence on the part of PAGCOR tantamount to disrespect of the religious tradition.
Dela Rosa directed the police to continue looking for the missing sabungeros for the sake of justice. He said those involved in the crime should be held liable despite being influential.
He said Monday’s hearing might be the last, but the quest for justice would not stop.
Dela Rosa said he was determined to “tie up all loose ends” on his committee’s inquiry on the rising number of missing sabungeros, even as the panel had submitted its report for plenary deliberation.
“Our intent is that with the implementation of our recommendations, we could prevent the repeat of these untoward incidents, and with the help of our national police and the Department of Justice (DOJ), we would be able to have those involved in the crime accountable and give justice to the victims and their families,” Dela Rosa said.
The Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) reported to the Senate that out of the eight cases of missing persons, two have been filed against several suspects and John Does involved in incidents in Sta. Ana Arena, Manila and in San Pablo City, Laguna.
PNP-CIDG chief, Maj. Gen. Eliseo Cruz said some police officers who were allegedly involved were under summary hearing proceedings before the PNP-Regional Internal Affairs Service (PNP-RIAS) Calabarzon for administrative cases.
Cruz said that in the case of Ricardo “Jonjon” Lasco, a master agent of electronic sabong or online cockfighting who was kidnapped by 10 armed men inside his residence in San Pablo City, Laguna in August 2021, the victim’s kin and witnesses positively identified the suspects as policemen formerly assigned at the Laguna Provincial Police Office based in Sta. Cruz, Laguna.
The PNP-CIDG, together with the victim’s kin and witnesses, has filed criminal complaints for kidnapping and serious illegal detention, and robbery against the five identified policemen who have been placed under restrictive custody at the Regional Police Office in Calabarzon.
Cruz added that brothers Darwin and Alvin Indon, who were allegedly involved in game fixing and currently detained at the Laguna Provincial Jail for violations of Republic Act 9165 (Dangerous Drugs Act), identified the same group of police officers as involved.
PNP chief General Dionardo Carlos gave assurance that they would look into the coordination papers between several PNP units and personnel following allegations that some policemen were linked in the abduction of sabong master agent Johnver Francisco and a companion in a gas station in Meycauyan, Bulacan in April last year.