Año orders PNP, LGUs to immediately stop e-sabong operations

Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año assured on Tuesday, May 3, that they will immediately implement the directive of President Duterte to suspend the operations of e-sabong across the country.

He said the President’s decision validates the DILG’s assessment of the situation on the ground as well as a nationwide public survey that reflects the pulse of the public.

“The DILG welcomes the President’s decision to stop e-Sabong. Government policies must take heed of the pulse of the people. This decision is rooted in a survey reflecting the sentiment of the people. Hindi ito bara-bara na desisyon (The decision was not made abruptly),” Año said.

“The President’s decision based on public sentiment against on-line gambling is a sign of the responsive governance of his administration. It serves the common good and the preservation of the moral fabric of our society,” he added.

He also clarified that the traditional physical sabong will continue to operate with compliance to minimum public health standards (MPHS) as regulated by local government units (LGUs).

With this development, Año noted that he has directed the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the local government units (LGUs) to stop all e-sabong operations nationwide.

According to Año, the DILG, through its regional and field offices, conducted the survey with respondents in every city and municipality across the country.

He added that a total of 8,463 respondents answered the online sentiment survey of the DILG from April 19-20, 2022 to gauge public perceptions of e-sabong and to provide the President with a basis for his decision on the fate of e-Sabong.

The respondents were persons who are engaged in e-sabong whether they are agents, employees, bettors or players, and non-participants or non-players but related or acquainted with the three stakeholders mentioned.

Based on the survey results, 62 percent or a majority of those surveyed want to put a stop to e-Sabong, which became prominent during the community quarantine in the last two years of the pandemic, 34 percent want it to continue but with tighter regulation while 4 percent completely support it.

The reasons cited by the respondents for opposing e-Sabong include addiction to gambling, bankruptcy of players, indebtedness, cost to family, neglect of work and studies, and crime.

“The DILG recommended suspending the operations of e-Sabong until a better set of framework and regulations are formulated, in such a way that it will not significantly harm any of the stakeholders and and lead to the moral decay of society,” he said.

While the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs recommended limiting the operations of e-sabong to Sundays and holidays only, Año said “it is still better to stick to the original physical sabong practice with strict observance of MPHS.”

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR)’s Regulatory Framework for Electronic Sabong defines e-sabong as “an online, remote, or off-site wagering or betting on live cockfighting matches, events, and/or activities streamed or broadcasted live from cockpit arena/s licensed or authorized by the LGUs having jurisdiction thereof.”

As of March 8, 2022, six companies have been authorized by PAGCOR to do e-sabong operations starting in April 2021.

Criminality due to e-sabong

DILG Undersecretary and Spokesperson Jonathan E. Malaya said the department’s conduct of the survey on e-Sabong was upon the directive of the President.

He also pointed out that while the PAGCOR guidelines provided that only 21 years and above shall be allowed to play e-Sabong, the reality is people, regardless of age, have become addicted to the game. Reports from the communities revealed that persons ages 20 and below are able to bet due to laxity in the registration process of e-sabong. (Chito A. Chavez)