Reopen cockpits to end 'e-sabong', Tolentino urges gov't

Senator Francis Tolentino believes that the reopening of cockpits or cockfighting arenas will put to an end to operations of "e-sabong" or online cockfighting, which is now being linked to controversy following the disappearances of dozens of individuals involved in the industry.

Senator Francis Tolentino

Tolentino said during his speech at the Vice Mayors' League of the Philippines convention that if the government, particularly the local government units (LGUs) would allow the operations of local cockpits, "it will do away with operations little by little of online sabong".

Unlike traditional cockfighting which has cultural significance and dates back to the pre-colonial period, the lawmaker said the e-sabong business has already led to various "deleterious effects" in society.

Tolentino said that since most of the areas in the country are now already under Alert Level 1, members of the Vice Mayors’ League, who are the heads of their respective local councils, can ask the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) to clarify if traditional cockfights can now resume following the recent relaxation of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) health protocols.

However, Tolentino, chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government, said compliance to minimum health protocols must still be observed.

Tolentino added that game fowl tournaments must be done on a weekend only-basis and within specified operating hours.

Last week, the lawmaker questioned the supposed legal authority of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) to grant e-sabong operators license to operate.

This was supposedly because "games of numbers" like cockfighting are not included in the supposed mandate covered by the country’s gambling regulatory body under Presidential Decree No. 1869 as amended by Republic Act No. 9487.