Cayetano questions House plan to grant 25-year franchise for e-sabong operators

Published December 5, 2021, 2:42 PM

by Melvin Sarangay

Former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Sunday challenged lawmakers to think critically about the 25-year franchise application of online cockfighting or e-sabong operators being deliberated in the Lower House despite opposition to the proposed bill from religious leaders and other legislators.

This came about as members of the Lower House are considering the approval of a second franchise application by an e-sabong operator despite existing regulations set by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) last April.

“Kumbaga ‘yung emergency use ng e-sabong na ginawa ng PAGCOR eh binigyan ang operators ng license kasi emergency daw sila, wala na silang pondo. Pero bakit mo bibigyan ngayon ang e-sabong operators ng full access o full authorization ng 25 years na hindi pa nga nakaka-six months, hindi mo pa nakikita kung eto talaga ay nakakabuti o nakakasama or neutral sa ating society (PAGCOR’s emergency use of e-sabong, so to speak, is to grant licenses to operators because the agency said it was running out of cash. But why would you give e-sabong operators full access or full authorization for 25 years when we’ve regulated them for barely six months, we haven’t seen whether it is beneficial or harmful or neutral to society)?,” the Taguig-Pateros representative said.

“We know naman that one member of Congress, kahit five or ten cannot tell PAGCOR to do something and they’ll just do it. The President can pero kami hindi. Pero ‘yung pagbibigay ng franchise may say naman tayo dyan at yun nga, bakit mo bibigyan ng 25 years na mag-operate ang e-sabong ng hindi mo pa nga alam yung epekto nito ‘di ba?” (We know that one member of Congress, even five or ten, cannot tell PAGCOR to do something and they’ll just do it. The President can, not us. But we do have a say in the granting of franchises, so why would you give them 25 years to operate without fully knowing its effect on society?)

Cayetano, during a press conference held last Thursday, Dec. 2, made the statement after newly-installed head of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) head Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David condemned the legalization of e-sabong as a “disastrous” move by the current government.

“In the context of the pandemic that has locked down the elderly, the vulnerable, and the children for too long, the legalization of e-sabong has been one of the most disastrous things ever allowed by the government,” David said in a Facebook post last Tuesday, Nov. 30.

The former House Speaker, who boldly opposed the Lower House’s approval of the 25-year franchise granted to e-sabong operator Lucky 8 Star Quest Inc. last September, said the best result is for PAGCOR to revoke the operating licenses given to at least seven operators.

“We’re not asking, you know, for people to be unreasonable ‘di ba, but of course kung ako tatanungin mo, gusto ko i-revoke din ng PAGCOR ‘yung license, pero nandyan ‘yan eh, nag-o-operate na (We’re not asking, you know, for people to be unreasonable ‘di ba, but of course if it were up to me, I would want PAGCOR to also revoke their licenses, but it’s already there, they’re already operating),” Cayetano noted.

The Taguig-Pateros 1st district solon proposed that House members can allow PAGCOR to enforce its existing regulatory framework for e-sabong operators for at least six months, and conduct a report on the revenues coming from licensing fees and the operations’ impact on society, instead of granting 25-year franchises to e-sabong operators.