PRESIDENT Duterte cautioned lawmakers against calling for the suspension of “e-sabong” (online cockfighting) activities, saying this could cost the government billions of revenues and lead to an increase in illegal activities.
In his public address late Tuesday, which was aired on Wednesday, Duterte urged members of Congress to consider the impact of the suspension on the government’s funds.
“My appeal to congressmen is to not meddle in it since it continues to earn. Nobody benefits from it but Pagcor [Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.] and of course the big players, who do not belong to the poor,” Duterte said.
Several lawmakers—the Senate even adopted a resolution—are calling for the suspension of e-sabong operations after 34 people linked to e-sabong disappeared, apparent victims of abductions. Senate President Vicente Sotto III led the call to halt e-sabong operations until a “satisfactory” resolution of such enforced disappearances is attained.
On Tuesday, Duterte said: “So I will have to choose if we will lose income by the billions or allow it. It is such a waste. We are short of money.”
Pagcor Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Andrea D. Domingo said since they started regulating e-sabong in April last year until December 2021, the government was able to collect around P3.7 billion worth of taxes and fees from eight licensees.
From January to March 15, 2022, Pagcor earned around P1.7 billion from seven of the remaining e-sabong licensees. “Based on our analysis and projection, it [e-sabong revenue collection] could reach P7.2 billion to P8 billion this year,” Domingo said. Duterte also said any attempt by the government through Pagcor to ban e-sabong will be futile, since some unscrupulous people will continue with it with or without government authorization.
“Whether I order for the closure of e-sabong, it will just be replaced with those, which are illegal,” Duterte said.
Domingo also voiced the same concern, saying that stopping e-sabong will require local government units (LGU) to ban live-streaming or the use of cameras in traditional cockpits.
Currently, she said, they continue to get numerous reports of illegal e-sabong activities.
“Last week, we were able to report to the DICT [Department of Information and Communication] 100 IP [internet protocol] addresses of illegal sabong to be taken down,” Domingo said.
“But after three days we were able to detect even more [illegal sabong cases],” she added.