Exclusive Report: e-Sabong flourishes amid pandemic
MANILA, Philippines — #SaPulaSaPuti!
But hey, where have all the rowdy gamblers gone? Not anymore in cockpit arenas. They have gone online.
Electronic sabong or cockfighting is actually not new but the coronavirus pandemic has simply pushed this centuries-old Filipino pastime to fully embrace the cyberspace.
Cockpit arenas have been shut down as social distancing is enforced across the country. An INQUIRER.net source bared that cock derby is now being held in private farms.
Inside these private farms, laptops and cameras are set up for the live streaming of the bloody fight between two gamecocks. These hosts have to continuously monitor the quality of their streaming as well as ensure that the event is recorded live to avoid delayed telecast which could result in bettors knowing which cock to bet on.
The person who is hosting the live streaming earns by selling the streaming rights to various websites where people can place their bets. Based on the screenshots provided by our source, mirror fee—or the fee to gain rights to stream the video—usually costs from P12,500 to P15,000.
“Sabungero ako, dati ang mga sabungan, nakikiusap na, ‘I-video nyo naman kami tapos ipalabas ninyo’, kasi kapag pinalabas ‘yan, parang promotional ng sabong,” a source said.
“Pero ngayon, baliktad na. Kasi dahil ginawa ng betting ng mga online operators ng sabong, hindi na for the pleasure of viewing and promoting ‘yung sabong industry natin,” he added.
Meanwhile on Facebook, there are “customer service representatives” (CSR), usually using photos of “beautiful women” to lure male clients, our source said.
These CSR are the ones directly transacting with possible bettors, instructing them of the steps to gain access to watch the sabong games online through the websites who were granted the rights to stream them.
Bettors are instructed to first create an account to gain access to the websites. Previously, the mere creation of an account would cost a bettor P2,000 to P5,000 but due to tightening competition in the online sabong industry, some operators have waived this fee to gain more bettors.
“Kapag pumasok kayo sa [website], may username at password na hihingin. ‘Yun ay para sa mag naka-register na ‘yan. Sa mga hindi pa naka-register, ic-click kayong ‘click to register’, magki-create ka ng account mo. You create your own username and password,” our source said.
The source said that bettors will be asked to provide information such as their name and other personal details to be used for financial transactions. The CSRs will then activate the accounts upon creation.
The CSRs, however, are now being creative with their ways to avoid accidentally transacting with law enforcement authorities cracking down on illegal online cockfights.
“Kunyari magpapakilala ako (CSR) sayong legal para hindi ka matakot. Medyo tatanggihan kita, ‘Sir nasa Pilipinas kayo, [so] bawal’. That is to ward off law enforcement officers na nagsu-surveillance,” our source said.
Once a bettor has gained access to the website, he can place a bet by “loading points” which are equivalent to cash.
Financial transactions happen through banks using the accounts of what are called as “money mules”, our source said.
Money mules are given a commission for their account to be used. One of the money mules, our source said, turned out to be a driver in Infanta, Quezon.
“Magsasabi sila ng particular bank account, gumagamit sila ng mule. Ire-remit mo sa particular na pangalan na ito then pwede ka nang mag-view sa account nila at tumaya,” our source said.
“Siguradong may commission sila para gamitin ang account nila kasi sa bangko napakahigpit ngayon. Hindi ka pwedeng gumawa ng fictitious account kaya maghahanap ka ng money mule,” he added.
Cashouts, in case of a win, also happen through banking transactions, with hosting websites earning through a commission from bets.
The operations of these illegal online sabong operators have also become international as hosts also sell rights to their videos to various casinos abroad particularly in Macau and in Southeast Asian countries, such as Vietnam and Thailand.
These transactions could go up to millions, said the source.
“They have direct bettors [and] indirect bettors. Pwede natin i-classify [as indirect bettors] are the casino owners abroad. ‘Akin yang rights, sakin ka lang magbenta, wag mong ibebenta sa kalaban ko’,” our source said.
Tight regulations needed
Even Philippine National Police spokesperson Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac admitted that they have been receiving reports of illegal cockfighting events being secretly held during the quarantine.
Banac said that this can be considered as a violation of Republic Act 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act as well as local ordinances prohibiting mass gatherings during the quarantine period.
“Mayroong ilan na mga ilegal na ginagawa sa mga patago sa mga barangay pero based on our monitoring at ang mga naisumbong sa atin, kaagad namang na-respondehan ng PNP. May ilang incident na nag-responde ang PNP at naaresto ang mga gumawa nito,” Banac told INQUIRER.net.
But as per online sabong, Banac said that there needs to be an enabling law that will regulate it.
“Medyo kulang ang empowerment ng ating mga law enforcement so it’s hard to run after these online games,” Banac said.
“With the advent of time and then nag-evolve, we now have technology, ‘yung laws natin on this cockfighting which is now being done live-streaming, hindi na naka-keep up so we need an enabling law to really go after this online cockfighting,” the PNP official added.
In 1974, former President Ferdinand Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 449 or the Cockfighting Law of 1974. The said decree provides regulatory policies on cockfighting in the country.
“By reason of the aforestated meaning and connotation of cockfighting in relation to Filipino customs and traditions, it should neither be exploited as an object of commercialism or business enterprise, nor made a tool of uncontrolled gambling, but more as a vehicle for the preservation and perpetuation of native Filipino heritage and thereby enhance our national identity,” the decree states.
The decree also explicitly states: “No gambling of any kind shall be permitted on the premises of the cockpit or place of cockfighting during cockfights.”
This decree, however, does not cover the online platform.
Instead, previous operations against illegal online sabong operations used Presidential Decree No. 1602, prescribing stiffer penalties on illegal gambling.
In 2019, the House of Representatives approved on final reading House Bill 8910 which seeks to address the proliferation of illegal online sabong and expanding the mandate of the Games and Amusement Board.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.