Senators laud Duterte’s termination of 'e-sabong' ops in the country

Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Tuesday, May 3 and his fellow senators praised the decision of President Duterte to terminate the online "e-sabong" or online cockfighting operations in the country.

In a press statement, Sotto said that he is ‘’very pleased with the decision of President Duterte to suspend the operation of e-sabong".

‘’While the government has been generating millions of pesos in revenues from this game, it has created dysfunctional families and instilled questionable morals among the people,’’ he said.

The vice presidential candidate said the suspension is ideal because ‘’no amount of money or riches can replace our values".

‘’I am hopeful that the suspension of e-sabong operations in the country, while delayed, will pave the way for families to recover from their financial losses and allow them to renew relationships that were set aside,’’ he added.

Senator Francis Tolentino says the President’s decision sends a ‘’strong statement".

'’The President’s decision to finally put an end over the operations of e-sabong is a testament of his political will in ensuring the welfare of the public,” he pointed out.

In his pre-recorded "Talk to the Nation" that was aired on Tuesday, the Chief Executive announced that the operations of e-sabong will cease by evening of May 3 following the recommendation made by Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año amid the ongoing investigation over the reported mysterious disappearances of more or less 40 cock fighting aficionados in the last 18 months.

Tolentino, together with Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs chairman Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa earlier spearheaded a series of parallel inquiry over the missing 34 "sabongeros" (cockfighting afficionados) in which the Senate investigation exposed various loopholes in the operations of online sabong.

The senator is firm with his observation that a law must be legislated first before allowing e-sabong operators to conduct business and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) has no authority to regulate e-sabong, despite securing separate legal opinions from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Office of the Solicitor General.

“The bases of PAGCOR are mere opinions of the Secretary of Justice and the Solicitor General—a mere executive opinion—given by the Executive Department. Now the head of the Executive Department—the chief executive, the President himself has decided—in effect is an implied reversal of these legal opinions,” Tolentino said.

Tolentino earlier stressed that the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and PAGCOR also failed to withhold the 20-percent tax from the winning profits of online sabong operations since the virtual cockfighting industry began sometime during the second quarter of 2020, unlike those being collected from other number games like sweepstakes, horse racing, and lotto.

Dela Rosa, for his part, said the lack of material time to act on the franchise bill plus the President’s stoppage order would mean demise of the ‘e-sabong’ industry unless the next administration would decide to resurrect it.

Senator Aquilino Pimentel III said the issuance of a franchise for "e-sabong" operations should be studied very well.

He suggested that the next administration should be the one to make the ultimate decision on whether or not it should issue a franchise.

Senator Joel Villanueva says the President’s decision is a ‘’welcome development.’’

‘’Trabaho po at hindi sugal ang magbibigay ng oportunidad sa mga Pilipino (Work, not gambling, gives opportunities to Filipinos). Naniniwala rin po tayo na malaki ang pinsala ng sugal sa pamilyang Pilipino (I believe that gambling is detrimental to Filipino families). Sa desisyong ito ng Pangulo, mas maproprotektahan natin ang ating bayan at ang mga kabataang Pilipino (With the President’s decision, the country and the youth will be protected),’’ he said.