Passage of Atong Ang’s 'e-sabong' franchise hinges on case of missing 'sabungeros'–Poe

Published March 5, 2022, 10:11 AM

by Mario Casayuran

Senate action on the pending online “e-sabong” franchise for gambling businessman Charlie ‘Atong’ Ang’s Lucky 8 Star Quest will move only after the case of missing 34 ‘sabungeros’ (cockfight afficionados) has been resolved.

This was the stand of Senator Grace Poe, chairwoman of the Senate Public Services Committee, in Friday, March 4’s hybrid public hearing by the Senate Public Order and Dangerous Drugs Committee chaired by Senator Ronald ‘’Bato’’ dela Rosa on the missing 34 persons.

Ang admitted that his franchise, which was given by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor), has gross receipts of P1 billion to P2 billion a day or P60 billion a month.

He said his commission is five percent or P5 billion from the P60 billion and this is whittled down by P2 billion to P2.5 billion going to his agents and still other expenses. This leaves him a monthly take of P800 million to P900 million.

Most of the 34 persons were reportedly kidnapped after attending cockfights in Manila, Laguna, and Batangas since last year.

Several of the missing who had gone to cockpits were reportedly managed by Ang’s company.

Poe said her committee will try to determine whether or not the franchise applicants have liabilities.

She said that the fate of the missing 34 not only showed the social cost of e-sabong but also revealed the truth about the industry.

There are six e-sabong licensees, including Ang’s, authorized by Pagcor.

Senator Francis ‘’Tol’’ Tolentino had wondered why Pagcor chairman Andrea Domingo, who was a former lawmaker, never solicited advice from either Congress or Senate on licensing e-sabong and allowing their operations.

Poe pointed out the problems and lack of regulatory framework of Pagcor in managing the online e-sabong industry.

Issues, according to Poe, that require resolution are the lack of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras at cockpits, game-fixing, and lack of oversight on the part of Pagcor and local government units (LGUs).

During the hearing, Ang denied that his company is complicit in the disappearance of the missing ‘sabungeros’ and alleged there is a conspiracy to put him down.

Ang’s franchise bill has been endorsed by the Poe committee for approval at the Senate plenary session.

After the May 2022 national and local elections, the Senate will resume plenary session on May 24 and will adjourn sine die on June 4 to make way for the 19th Congress in July.