BIR, PAGCOR failed to get taxes from 'e-sabong' operations — Tolentino

Senator Francis Tolentino on Monday, March 21 chided the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) for allegedly failing to withhold the 20 percent tax from the winning profits of online cockfighting ("e-sabong") operations.

"So ang lumalabas ngayon, walang buwis pa na tinatanggap ang pamahalaan buhat sa e-sabong... unlike, pakinggan mo BIR, sweepstakes winnings. Lotto—binabawas agad yun (kapag) nanalo ka, diba? Horse racing, may bawas yun. Sa e-sabong wala pa, bakit ganun? (It appears that the government doesn't receive any taxes from the e-sabong industry, unlike, listen BIR, in sweepstakes winnings. In Lotto operations, they get taxes when one wins, right? Even in horse winning. But why is there no tax being taken from e-sabong?)" Tolentino asked during a Senate inquiry on the mysterious disappearances of 34 cockfighting aficionados.

The lawmaker also found that the government earnings from the e-sabong industry, which has been operating for about two years, only came from the regulatory fee being collected by PAGCOR from license operators on every match. A regulatory fee costs only P12,500 per match or "sultada".

"We are in a state of disarray by letting go of a big amount that should have gone to the coffers of government and used as 'ayuda' for drivers, farmers and fisherfolks," Tolentino said after also finding out that some e-sabong operations only remitted a scant amount of fee from the billions of pesos they would earn monthly.

Under the National Internal Revenue Code, legal or regulated gambling entities are supposed to remit to the national government a big chunk of their earnings

Tolentino said the complexity in the dynamics surrounding the online cockfighting industry should be blamed on the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Office of the Solicitor General's (SolGen) erroneous interpretations of Republic Act (RA) No. 9487—the New PAGCOR Charter—which enabled the questionable authority of the country’s gambling regulatory agency in regulating e-sabong.