Anyone who continues online cockfighting operations—or “e-sabong”—will be arrested, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said Wednesday.
In an interview with Dobol B TV, Año said there was no need to wait for implementing rules and regulations after President Duterte ordered an end to online cockfighting.
“There is no sophistication in the President’s order. When the Chief Executive says that this is no longer allowed based on his power, then we’ll have to implement it,” Año said in Filipino.
“When he said it should stop, then it should stop regardless of technicalities or justifications. It’s that simple. If you don’t comply, you will be held accountable by the law and you can expect that we will arrest those who do not comply.”
Año saidt Duterte’s decision came following a survey conducted by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on April 19 which showed that 68 percent of respondents said e-sabong did not help with their finances, and 62 percent said the form of online gambling should be stopped.
Another 34 percent said the operations should be regulated, while only 4 percent said it should continue without any regulation.
The DILG did not say how many respondents took its survey, how they were chosen, or what the margin of error was.
“The most serious problems here are the moral issues such as addiction. It’s really bad when people get addicted to e-sabong as they will look for money and even sell their house, land, and anything else,” he said.
The DILG recommended an end to e-sabong operations after 34 cockfighting enthusiasts allegedly involved in game rigging disappeared.
Malacañang expressed confidence that the country’s gaming regulator will find new sources of revenue to replace the shuttered online sabong operations.
Acting presidential spokesman Martin Andanar said the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) can find alternative sources of revenue after the online cockfighting operations were stopped.
However, Andanar said that a formal order from the President has yet to be released from Malacanang’s record office.
PAGCOR said e-sabong revenues for the government hit P2 billion this year.Two lawmakers on Wednesday welcomed President Duterte’s effort to put an end to e-sabong operations in the country, saying it was an affirmation of the Filipino values that keep the country strong.
Senatorial candidate and Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano quoted the Bible and said while e-sabong has brought revenue to the government, the cost in lives ruined has been too high.
House Deputy Speaker and Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr. also welcomed Duterte’s order to halt the online cockfighting operations, saying this would save Filipinos from the evils of gambling.
“Tthere is incontrovertible evidence that e-sabong, like other forms of gambling, is a vice that ruins lives and even endangers lives, as online cockfighting personnel have even gone missing under suspicious circumstances,” he said.
“The President’s directive will save lives from the evils of gambling, and will also prevent criminal incidents related to online cockfighting operations.”
The number of licensed operators has since grown to at least seven: Belvedere Vista Corp., Lucky 8 Star Quest Inc., Visayas Cockers Club Inc., Jade Entertainment and Gaming Technologies Inc., Newin Cockers Alliance Gaming Corp., Philippine Cockfighting International Inc., and Golden Buzzer Inc.
Cayetano had consistently called for the complete banning of e-sabong, saying it was inconsistent with the values of the Filipino people who value faith and family more than anything else.
He pointed to the rising number of crimes related to e-sabong, including the disappearance of 34 cockfighting enthusiasts early this year with some police officers allegedly involved. He also cited the cases of some police officers resorting to robbery and of a woman who sold her baby—all to pay off their gambling debts.
Senator Christopher Go also aired his support for the President’s decision, saying the benefits from online cockfighting cannot outweigh the social harm it does.
He said the decision was reached after a thorough cost-benefit study.