Guevarra defends DOJ, OSG opinions on PAGCOR’s regulation of ‘e-sabong’

Published March 11, 2022, 1:55 PM

by Jeffrey Damicog

Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra (2)

Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra on Friday, March 11, said the opinion issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on the regulation by the Philippine Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) on the operation of “e-sabong” was based on “the interpretation of PAGCOR charter, which is an act of the legislature.”

“On the other hand, the OSG’s (Office of the Solicitor General) opinion was apparently based on the inadequacy of gaming authority on the part of LGUs (local government units), considering the online nature of ‘e-sabong’ operations,” he Guevarra said.

He pointed out that “if the Congress believes that a clear and unequivocal congressional authority is needed for the licensing of ‘e-sabong,’ then Congress should act expeditiously.”

“From a policy viewpoint, the regulation of ‘e-sabong,’ whether through congressional franchises or by authority of executive agencies, is far better than ‘e-sabong’ being totally unregulated,” he stressed.

Guevarra’s comment was sought after pro-administration Sen. Francis Tolentino accused the DOJ and the OSG, an agency attached to the DOJ, of violating the law for usurping the legislative powers of Congress in allowing agencies like PAGCOR to give franchises.

Tolentino issued the statement amidst ongoing Senate investigation over the missing “sabungeros” or cockfight enthusiasts.

PAGCOR’s original charter was Presidential Decree No. 18609 which had been amended by Republic Act No. 9487 which granted the agency the authority to operate and license gambling casinos, gaming clubs, and other similar recreation or amusement places and gaming pools.

On the missing “sabungeros,” Malacanang issued a memorandum last March 8 which ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to investigate the disappearances of the “sabungeros” and submit its findings in 30 days upon receiving the order.

Prior the issuance of the memorandum, Guevarra already issued a directive last month to the NBI to probe the disappearances.

Under Department Order No. 042 dated Feb. 17, Guevarra told the NBI “to conduct an investigation on the reported abduction and disappearance of ‘sabungeros’ (cockers/cockfighting aficionados) in various places during the past few weeks and, if evidence warrants, to file the appropriate charges against all persons involved and found responsible for any unlawful act in connection therewith.”

Guevarra also instructed NBI Officer-in-Charge Director Eric B. Distor “to submit reports on the progress of the subject investigation directly to the Office of the Secretary….”