Duterte defends e-Sabong, cites billion-peso earnings from operations

President Duterte is not keen on suspending the operations of e-Sabong (electronic or online cockfighting) as the government is getting billions of pesos from its operations.

President Rodrigo Duterte (RTVM Screenshot)

Duterte made the statement amid calls to suspend the gambling activity following the disappearances of 34 individuals involved in e-Sabong based on Senate data.

In his pre-recorded public address aired Wednesday morning, the President appealed to lawmakers to leave e-Sabong alone because of the income being collected from the gambling activity.

"Ang appeal ko sa mga Congressman, 'wag na lang ninyo anuhin 'yan. Kumikita 'yan (My appeal to the Congressmen is to leave it alone. It's earning)," he said.

"Mamimili ako ngayon na mawala yung income mo by the billions. Sayang, eh (I have to choose if we should lose billions of income. That would be a waste)," he added.

Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) Chairperson Andrea Domingo said they tallied P3.69 billion in total income from eight e-Sabong licensees from April to December last year.

She added that they had collected P1.37 billion from the operations of seven licensees from January to March 15, 2022, alone.

Despite this, President Duterte said he still is against gambling in general but insisted that the government is only after the money.

"Ang interes lang ng gobyerno is iyong pera (The government is only after the money). That is all there is to it," he said.

"Nakikinabang ang gobyerno, pero ang yayaman nito yung mga operators (The government benefits from it but it's the operators who will get rich)," he added.

Instead of suspending its operations, President Duterte suggested stricter regulations like cutting the 24-hour operation of e-Sabong licensees but later on decided against it when he realized the amount of money the government would lose.

He said even though PAGCOR has always been transparent in its operations, he suggested bringing the money derived from e-Sabong operations directly to the Bureau of Treasury to quell suspicions of corruption.

"Matagal na sana sarado ang PAGCOR (I would have shut down PAGCOR long ago if it is corrupt)," he said.

Even PAGCOR Chair Domingo said suspending e-Sabong would not really stop its activities, and it would just lead to more corruption.

Missing sabongeros

On the other hand, the President lamented the disappearance of sabongeros (cockfighters) and other people involved in the said gambling activity.

However, he said the public should realize that e-Sabong is like any gambling activity in casinos where things can go wrong.

"There's always a room for a wrong... I'm sad na nawala sila (that they are missing)," Duterte said.

"I don't know. I really do not know. Maybe because there was really a widespread of game-fixing," he added.

Duterte said it was best to leave the matter to the authorities.

"It's up to law enforcement to resolve it," he said.

"Hindi ko sinasabi na nandoon sila sa (I'm not saying they are involved in) fixing. But the perception is... We cannot dwell on other suspicions because the nearest, really, that can happen is game-fixing.

Last week, President Duterte gave the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) 30 days to conduct a thorough investigation on the disappearances of sabongeros.

Survey on bettors

Meanwhile, President Duterte asked PAGCOR to conduct a survey on the social cost of e-Sabong after hearing unconfirmed anecdotes involving people, even kids, getting addicted to it to the point they are selling their properties so that they can place a bet.

"Whether you can commission someone to do surveys, yung tama ba ang sugal sa mga tao (the effects of gambling on people)," he said.

"Some say mga asawa, mga anak daw sumasali na (even the spouses and children are joining in)," he added.