PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte ordered Monday, May 2, 2022 the immediate stoppage of “e-sabong” (online cockfight betting) operations as per recommendation of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

In his Talk to the People Address Monday night, Duterte said he had directed DILG Secretary Eduardo Año to conduct a survey to determine the social impact of e-sabong after receiving objections from a number of people.

Calls to stop e-sabong started early this year due to reports of 34 missing cockfight betting enthusiasts.

In March, Duterte said his primary reason for not stopping e-sabong was the P640 million a month the government gets from its operations.

Duterte on Monday, however, said that after hearing the complaints and DILG’s reports, he agreed that that e-sabong “was working against our values and yung impact sa pamilya pati sa tao (and has an impact on families and people).”

“Eh ang labas, di na natutulog yung sabungero 24 hours (What happens is some bettors are not sleeping 24 hours because of e-sabong),” he said.

“I leave it to Secretary Año to impose it because the PNP (Philippine National Police) is under the DILG... It is immediate,” he added.

200 tellers hit

In Cebu, an official of a registered local e-sabong company voiced plans to appeal to President Duterte to reconsider the suspension of online sabong operations nationwide.

Daniel Francis Arguerdo, legal counsel of Highland Amusement Center, which is affiliated with the Pitmasters Live brand, told SunStar Cebu that the suspension affected 200 tellers working in their 19 outlets in Cebu City.

On Tuesday, May 3, Arguerdo met with their outlet tellers at a mall in uptown Cebu City to discuss the suspension of their operations.

"Stop first operations until further notice. Hoping there will be reconsideration to the decision of the president," Arguerdo said.

Arguerdo said he received word from their management that they are now negotiating with the national government to resume the online sabong operations in exchange for regulation of their operations.

He even suggested to their management the possible reduction of operating hours of their outlets to convince the government to consider their resumption.

Arguerdo said the suspension may have come amid pressure to stop e-sabong operations because of the ongoing election period. Elections will be held on May 9.

“Daghan naman pressure didto sa taas nga ipahunong (There was a lot of pressure to stop the operations) especially election time. Daghang mga (Many) interested parties nga pa-pogi points nila (wanted brownie points),” Arguerdo said.

Arrest

Over at the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO), Lt. Col. Maria Theresa Macatangay said arrests are in order for those who don’t heed Duterte’s call to stop their online sabong operations.

“Well, if their franchise has already been totally cancelled, it will render their activities illegal, so they will all be arrested,” CCPO information officer Macatangay said, referring to both the operators and their customers.

However, she said they would still have to wait for formal orders from their head office in Camp Crame before operating against e-sabong operators.

The Cebu City government can also order the closure of e-sabong shops whose business permits came from the city.

The CCPO now expects e-sabong customers to resort to illegal cockfights or tigbakay in their areas, so they will again conduct roving patrols in interior portions of the city's barangays and sitios where tigbakay is usually held.

She said cockfighting is not illegal when no bet money is involved. (LMY, EHP, AYB / TPT)