MANILA (UPDATE)— President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday threatened to kill e-sabong franchises in the country and said he is willing to forego billions of pesos in revenue from the gambling platform if authorities link illegal activities to it.
While Duterte did not explicitly mention the cases of missing sabungeros, he ordered cops to "solve the crime" that involve "many personalities."
"Ang problema ganito... Itong mga 'to, nagpupusta lahat. Nagsasangla na para magpusta. Yun ang sabi ng tagalabas. If it is true, then hihintuin ko yan," Duterte said in his speech during the groundbreaking of an overseas Filipino workers (OFW) center in Las Piñas City.
(The problem is this, they keep on betting. They sell their properties to bet, according to outsiders. If it is true, then I will stop it.)
"Masigurado ninyo, before I go, I will stop it, kung totoo," he added.
(I will make sure before I go, I will stop it if it is true.)
"But I have to sacrifice the billions that we would have earned kung nand'yan yan," the President said.
"So, it's a police work. Magtrabaho kayo. Solve the crime, kahit sino man yan. You have mentioned so many personalities there," he continued.
(Police should work on it. Solve the crime, whoever it is.)
Some policemen and businessman Atong Ang have been dragged in the disappearances of cockfighting enthusiasts. They denied involvement.
In his previous speeches, Duterte rejected calls to end e-sabong operations, citing at least P300 million that government generates from it monthly.
But he had blamed "evil men" for the disappearances of cockfighting enthusiasts. A Senate body has passed a resolution to suspend e-sabong operations while the probe is still ongoing.
The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) had said it earned P3.7 billion from April to December 2021 from e-sabong, and another P1.4 billion so far this year.
There are at least 30 missing sabungeros so far, according to authorities. The interior department said they already have 8 suspects, while the national police said 6 have already been "positively identified."
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said his agency has brought the matter to the National Bureau of Investigation, local courts, and the Department of Justice to "expedite resolution of cases."
During the same speech in Las Pinas, Duterte said his funds for contingency plans and intelligence were already depleted because of the pandemic.
He did not mention how much of these funds went to the government's COVID-19 response.
"Ngayon, at the end of the year, if I have the billions at 640 million a month, ‘yun na ang maitulong ko kaagad. Iyong pandemic, naubos ang contingency plan ko pati ‘yung intelligence fund," he said, in the context of e-sabong revenue that government is earning.
(At the end of the year, if I have the billions and 640 million a month, it will be my immediate contribution. The pandemic depleted my contingency and intelligence funds.)
"Binigyan ko lang ‘yang pulis pati military ng… Sabi ko, you will just have to work on it. Eh kung kailangan kayo maggawa-gawa ng intelligence, maglakad ka kasi wala tayong pera. Iyon ang nangyari doon," he added.
(I gave the police and military -- I said, you will just have to work on it. If you need to do intelligence work, you can walk because we do not have any money. That's what happened.)
In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, Duterte's office has P8.28 billion in surveillance funds.
Late that year, the President refused to tell Congress how intelligence funds in 2021's national budget would be spent, noting that these were for programs and projects "related to national security", and matters related to this "are deemed confidential or classified information."
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon had said Duterte has a budget of P16.4 billion for anti-insurgency and P9.5 billion for intelligence funds in the 2021 budget.
This year, the Office of the President has around P4.5 billion in intelligence funds.