MANILA — At least 2 senators on Monday asked the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) to explain why e-sabong or online cockfighting operations allegedly pushed through on Good Friday.
Good Friday is among the most important religious days observed in the predominantly Catholic Philippines, said Sen. Francis Tolentino.
"Contrary to what the PAGCOR had been saying that they had been regulating e-sabong, on that very Good Friday 2 days ago, there was e-sabong," he said in a hearing of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs.
"Nakakagulat naman po iyon (that is surprising). There should be at least a semblance of respect for our tradition. And I ask PAGCOR why this happened," continued the senator.
Tolentino argued this should prompt the passage of a law that would bar e-sabong and other gaming operations during religious and national holidays.
“There was a gross violation of our faith. I don’t know why it was done. Probably, PAGCOR slept on its job,” Tolentino said.
Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, the committee chairman, said he would ask for an explanation from the gaming regulator.
“Biyernes Santo, patuloy pa rin 'yung e-sabong. Para bang hindi nirerespeto ng ating faith, 'yung ating Catholic Church—eh parang hindi na nirespeto ang ating belief,” he said.
(E-sabong continued on Good Friday. It was as if our faith, the Catholic Church, our belief were disrespected.)
There was no PAGCOR official present during the hearing.
Senators in March started looking into online cockfighting after the disappearance of around 30 sabungeros.
At the fourth Senate hearing on the issue, a police official said “2 out of the 8” e-sabong cases were pending in court.
Both cases involved several Calabarzon policemen who were identified by the witnesses, said Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group director Maj. Gen. Eliseo Cruz.
The PNP, National Bureau of Investigation and other agencies have assured the public that they would finish their probe and file appropriate cases against perpetrators.
The committee, meantime, summoned brothers Nicasio and Nicholas Manio, both suspects in the abduction of online sabong master agent Johnver Francisco.
Lawyer Gilbert Escoto of NBI, who is in charge of the case investigation, confirmed that Francisco's watcg was recovered from the Manio brothers, along with other pieces of evidence.
The Manio brothers, who are detained at an NBI facility, denied the any hand in Francisco's disappearance.
Meanwhile, Francisco's parter Christy Ladao said the brothers told her and the other relatives of the missing cockfighters that they would confess everything if they would not be jailed.
Asked if they had identified themselves as “asset” of the police Rapid Deployment Unit (RDU), the siblings replied, “Hindi po (no).”
RDU officials also denied the Manios were their asset.
Both Dela Rosa and Tolentino warned the pair of possibly committing perjury, but the Manio brothers said that they were telling the truth.
Meanwhile, Dela Rosa quizzed Lt. Col. Ryan Jay Orapa, chief of the PNP’s Calabarzon Drug Enforcement Unit, on his wife’s ties to the POV Security Agency Inc., which bagged in February a security service contract for businessman Charlie “Atong” Ang’s Manila and Lipa e-sabong arenas.
Orapa’s wife is part-owner of the said security agency.
“Hindi kaya eto’y reward ni Atong Ang sa'yo? So 'yong pabor na binigay mo sa kanya dahil sa kontrata?” Dela Rosa asked.
(Could this be a reward of Atong Ang for you, for the favor that you did for him?)
“No, your honor. This is a legitimate business, your honor. You have to apply or bid for such contract, for you to win, be rewarded or awarded. Such allegation of being rewarded, hindi po (that's not true),” Orapa said.
Before ending the hearing, Dela Rosa pushed for the following measures.
- Limiting e-sabong on Sundays and legal holidays
- Installating CCTV cameras in commercial establishments, including betting sites and gambling sites
- Regularizing a reward system for witnesses
- Increasing penalty for obstruction of justice
- Preventing minors' access to money transfer
- Mandating the NBI to help in ensuring more effective tax collection from e-sabong operations
- Immediate resolution of the case of missing sabungeros