Duterte shuts down e-sabong operations – BusinessWorld Online


Roosters are seen during a cockfight in Manila, January 24, 2009. — REUTERS

By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Journalist

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte said on Monday he would order an end to online cockfighting operations in the Philippines, after earlier posting the hundreds of millions of pesos in government revenue generated from such games.

In the televised Cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning, Duterte said his order was based on the recommendation of Interior Secretary Eduardo M. Año, who has been tasked with investigating the social costs of cockfighting. online, also known as “e-sabong”. .”

“Secretary Año’s recommendation is to remove e-sabong and he quoted the validation report from all sources,” he said. “So that’s his recommendation and I agree with that, that’s fine, so e-sabong is going to end.”

Mr. Duterte’s sudden decision to shut down online cockfighting operations could force operators and their employees into hiding, political analysts say.

Abruptly halting e-sabong operations without providing a clear strategic roadmap for affAccording to John Paolo R. Rivera, an economist at the Asian Institute of Management, the affected sectors would likely force small operators and their workers to operate illegally.

“Like other suspended gaming operations, this latest decision may not temporarily disenfranchise operations entirely,” he said in a Viber message.

“Other operators could continue to operate underground… The unintended consequences of this sudden decision would be felt.”

Jefferson A. Arapoc, an economist at the University of the Philippines (UP) Los Baños, said underground e-sabong operations are expected to thrive as the government has shown an inability to regulate online activities such as scams and sex trafficking.

“The Duterte administration’s order to halt e-sabong operations will depend on the government’s ability to implement it,” he said. “His decision could have done more harm than good – imagine the government losing revenue as e-sabong continues to thrive in the underground economy.”

Mr Duterte previously refused to suspend e-sabong because of the revenue it generates for the government, which has seen its budget deficit widen during the pandemic.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) previously estimated that online cockfighting revenue averaged 400 million pesos per month last year and 640 million pesos per month since January 2022.

Mr. Duterte acknowledged that the government’s previous position was solely based on the economic benefits of e-sabong.

“It goes against our values,” he said of the game. “The impact on families and on people, it turns out players don’t sleep for 24 hours.”

E-sabong grew in popularity during the pandemic as Filipino gamblers only had to place bets using their mobile phones. However, the disappearance of at least 30 people allegedly linked to online cockfighting has sparked a Senate investigation and prompted calls for it to be suspended.

Seeking comment, PAGCOR President Andrea D. Domingo said via text that the regulator must implement the president’s decision.

“We have a duty to follow whatever the president’s decision on e-sabong is, which I’m sure is always guided for the people at large,” said PAGCOR’s president and chief operating officer.ffisaid Alfredo C. Lim via Viber.

Mr. Duterte gave Mr. Año until Tuesday (May 3) to finalize the order to end the e-sabong operations. Yesterday at 5 p.m., Malacañang had not yet returned the order.

“Providing no certainty as to the exact date of closure is of no use,” said Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco, member of the Ateneo de Manila University Policy Center. “That date should have been set even before the announcement was made.”

Mr. Yusingco said Mr. Duterte’s decision could push Congress to assess the domestic gambling industry and make it more responsive to emerging security and social threats.

“The larger context, the responsibility to reconsider the gaming industry rests with Congress,” he said in a Messenger chat.

“Establishing a legal framework fit for the times is the job of our lawmakers…So the future of this revenue-generating activity, and similar businesses, is in the hands of our lawmakers.”

Congress has been urged to pass legislation regulating online cockfighting. PAGCOR has previously issued licenses to several e-sabong operators.

Mr Yusingco said lawmakers should ensure that “public safety and general welfare are protected in the gaming industry now that we are on the path to digitalization”.

“E-sabong is just one activity, it should be looked at among many others holistically, including all forms of gambling,” said Edna Estifania A. Co, professor and alumnus Dean of the National College of Public Administration and Governance of the UP. .

“The government should rationalize its decisions by weighing the positive and negative aspects in terms of management. Financial gains, regulatory framework and social impacts,” she added.

Senators hailed Mr. Dutere’s latest move.

“The suspension of e-sabong operations in the country, although delayed, will pave the way for families to recover from their Iffinancial losses,” said Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III.

Senator Ronald M. dela Rosa, who previously pushed the president to suspend e-sabong, said Congress had no time to act on a bill that would transfer the power to issue licenses to PAGCOR e-sabong operators at Congress.

“(It) would mean the demise of the e-sabong industry unless the next administration decides to resuscitate it,” he said.

Senator Francis N. Pangilinan, meanwhile, said e-sabong debates should be left to the next Congress to give lawmakers more time to assess the popular online game. — with entries from Tobias Jared Tomas

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