President Rodrigo Duterte said he will decide on the fate of e-sabong (online cockfighting) operations by Monday.
In a speech in San Fernando City, Pampanga during the inspection of the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) Hospital on Sunday, Duterte said the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has finished drafting a recommendation on whether or not to suspend e-sabong operations.
“There is a department, si DILG, I tasked it to make a serious study of the e-sabong. The recommendation is on my table now. So pagdating doon, babasahin ko and maybe by Monday, malaman natin kung ituloy natin o hindi (So when I get there, I will read it and maybe by Monday we will find out if we will allow its continued operations or not),” Duterte said.
The DILG recommendation comes as the disappearance of some e-sabong aficionados (sabungeros), which started late last year, remains unsolved up to this day.
Duterte acknowledged that the government is earning millions of pesos from the betting game, but noted that there is apparently a “social problem”.
“Ako, kung mayroon lang ganun, susugal ako (If it was just me, I would take a risk). But there is apparently a social problem evolving sa pagpatakbo nitong e-sabong (running e-sabong operations). So, we have a problem there and we want to be fair to everybody but then again, we must study seriously or take into consideration ‘yung (the) social issues,” he said.
He expressed concern that the game is luring many Filipino families, including minors and police officers.
Meanwhile, he defended his decision to allow the continued operation of e-sabong even after some senators urged the Palace to order its suspension after 30 sabungeros have been reported missing.
“The only reason, the sole and only reason why I, we in the Executive department, allowed it kasi ang estimate ni (because the estimate of) [Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation chair and CEO] Ms. [Andrea] Domingo is that it would help us something like PHP640 million a month. That would give us at the end of the year billions,” he said.
Duterte has previously asked Congress to regulate the operations of the betting game by issuing a legislative franchise.
He said he might be forced to order the suspension of e-sabong if the situation gets out of hand.
In February, the Senate filed a resolution urging Pagcor to suspend operations until the case of the missing sabungeros are resolved.
Malacañang, in response, ordered a thorough investigation on the disappearances and directed an inquiry into online sabong licensees for possible violations.
The Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group has filed kidnapping and robbery charges against five police officers and “several John Does” who might be involved in the alleged kidnappings.