Tolentino: Gov’t should act fast to stop OFWs from being addicted to e-sabong

Government should act fast to stop Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) from being addicted to the multi-billion-peso ‘e-sabong’ (online cockfighting) operations, Senator Francis Tolentino on Monday, April 11 said.

The country’s OFWs, described as the Philippines’ modern heroes, contribute nine percent to the Philippine gross domestic product (GDP). Their remittances from April to September in 2020 reached P134 billion.

Tolentino said these OFWs should be protected from gambling away their earnings to the cash registers of ‘e-sabong’ operators who earn billions of pesos every month.

There are reports that many OFWs are now hooked to the e-sabong operations until they come to a point that they could no longer send money to their families as they go into debt.

Tolentino said these OFWs send their bets through the e-wallet services in the Philippines despite claims that e-wallet services are exclusively used in the country.

He said that OFWs’s earnings, the result of their ’’blood and sweat’’ in foreign lands and should not be thrown away to the bank accounts of ‘e-sabong’ operators.

During a hybrid Senate committee hearing last month, Tolentino pointed out that the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP or central bank) has allowed ‘e-sabong’ features of e-wallet services.

He also maintained that the legal opinion of the Department of Justice (DOJ) giving the go-signal to the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) to give licenses to ‘e-sabong’ operators to conduct e-sabong’ operations has no legal basis.

Two weeks ago, President Duterte said he would only order the suspension of online cockfighting operations if the betting game is found to have become a "very serious" problem for Filipinos.

Duterte has repeatedly rejected senators' appeal to halt ‘e-sabong’ as the Senate public order and dangerous drugs committee continues its probe into the disappearance of 34 sabungeros (cockfight aficionados) who have been missing since April last year.

The President took note of reports of addiction problems among several Filipinos, some of whom have been mired in huge debt. He added even students are reportedly hooked on the game.