MANILA - The Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs approved a resolution on Thursday to suspend the operations of online cockfighting operators amid a series of disappearances linked to "e-sabong".
The resolution, moved by Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III and approved by Public Order Committee Chairman Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa, tasked the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) to suspend the licenses of the following firms:
1. Belvedere Vista Corporation (Brand: Sabong Express)
2. Lucky 8 Star Quest Inc. (Brand: Pitmasters Live)
3. Visayas Cockers Club, Inc. (Brand: Sabong International Ph)
4. Jade Entertainment And Gaming Technologies, Inc. (Brand: Jade Sabong)
5. Newin Cockers Alliance Gaming Corporation (Brand: NCA)
6. Philippine Cockfighting International Inc. (Brand: Platinum Cockers Club)
7. Golden Buzzer, Inc. (Brand: BAGWISAN)
The Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs was holding a hearing to look into the cases of 31 people who allegedly went missing in relation to online cockfighting.
Sotto said the licenses of the aforementioned firms should be suspended "until we find an acceptable conclusion to what is happening."
In response, PAGCOR E-Sabong Department Acting AVP Diane Erica Jogno said the agency was open to suspending the licenses of the aforementioned firms.
"As guided by our top management, we are okay po with the suspending of the operations and we will seek approval po from the Office of the President," she said.
"Alam ko maraming magagalit sa amin dito na mga sabongero kung mahinto itong e-sabong operations," Dela Rosa said. "But sana maintindihan ninyo, mas mahalaga ang buhay ng tao kaysa halaga ng pera na magiging losses ninyo pag nahinto itong e-sabong."
(I know a lot of cockfighters will get mad with us with the suspension of e-sabong operations. But I hope you understand that lives are more important than the money you'll lose over the suspension of e-sabong.)
Earlier in the hearing, the senators and invited resource persons from the Philippine National Police, PAGCOR, and other entities discussed the first case of disappearances at the Manila Arena on January 13, 2022, where six men went missing.
Dela Rosa questioned the PAGCOR about the lack of closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras at the Manila Arena during the incident.
"Di ba requirement ninyo ito bago kayo mag-issue ng license na the vicinity by the arena should be covered by the complete CCTV?" Dela Rosa asked.
(Isn't it your requirement before you issue a license that the vicinity of the arena should be covered by the complete CCTV [camera system]?)
The PAGCOR said the local government unit was in charge of ensuring that physical cockpits had sufficient CCTV cameras.
This prompted Dela Rosa to invite the heads of Business Permit and Licensing Offices in Manila and Sta. Cruz, Laguna to further Senate hearings on the disappearances. Persons were also reported to have gone missing over cockfighting in Sta. Cruz.
Lucky 8 Star Quest Inc., which manages the Manila Arena, said it had yet to complete the installation of CCTV cameras at the venue because its operations had just begun, following the lowering of COVID-19 Alert Levels in Metro Manila.
Meanwhile, the PNP said one of the potential motives behind the disappearances was the possible fixing of matches, where cockfighters would make their animals lose on purpose while placing bets on their opponents.