With end to e-sabong, senators expect full swing probe into missing ‘sabungeros’
MANILA, Philippines — Several senators on Tuesday welcomed the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to “put the brakes” on e-sabong operations, with at least two lawmakers expecting a full swing investigation into the cases of missing “sabungeros.”
“We agree with the decision to stop e-sabong operations while a thorough study is under way on its ill effects on our people,” Senator Grace Poe said in a statement.
“Life and family are always of primordial importance. With the President’s directive, authorities will be able to focus on seeking justice for the missing persons and their loved ones,” it added.
Poe chairs the Senate public services committee, which is tasked to handle franchise bills, including that of e-sabong firms.
For his part, Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III described Duterte’s decision as a good development.
“Mabuti naman at tinapakan ni Pres. Duterte ang brakes para hintuin muna ang e-sabong, na isang activity na balot ng kontrobersya dahil sa pagkawala ng 34 katao na hinihilaan natin ay patay na lahat,” he said in a message to reporters.
(It’s good that President Duterte has decided to put the brakes on e-sabong, an activity that is ridden with controversy due to the disappearance of 34 people who are suspected dead.)
“Pero dapat puspusan pa rin ang ating law enforcement agencies (PNP (Philippine National Police) and NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) who represent the best crime investigators in our land sa paghahanap sa mga nawawalang kababayan natin na kasama ang isang buntis na babae at isang menor de edad na lalaki,” he added.
(But our law enforcement, who represent the best crime investigators in our land, should still undertake a full swing investigation to find these missing people, including a pregnant woman and a minor.)
Meanwhile, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said “it’s about time” the President ordered an end to online sabong operations, saying he is “very pleased” with Duterte’s decision.
“While the government has been generating millions of pesos in revenues from this game, it has created dysfunctional families and instilled questionable morals among the people. The suspension is ideal because no amount of money or riches can replace our values,” Sotto said in a statement.
“I am hopeful that the suspension of e-sabong operations in the country, while delayed, will pave the way for families to recover from their financial losses and allow them to renew relationships that were set aside,” he added.
‘Franchise is dead’
Asked about the effect of Duterte’s order on pending e-sabong franchise bills, Sotto said: “Franchise is dead.”
Poe, for her part, said there is not enough time to act on the pending bills, adding that many oppose e-sabong operations.
Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa had the same sentiment.
“Lack of material time to act on the franchise bill plus the President’s stoppage order would mean demise of the esabong industry unless the next administration would decide to resurrect it,” Dela Rosa said.
The President ordered the immediate stop of e-sabong operations following the recommendation of Interior Secretary Eduardo Año.
This, after Duterte initially rejected the call of senators to suspend e-sabong until the disappearance of over 30 cockfight enthusiasts is resolved, citing potential revenue loss.
“The 24 senators were never wrong in supporting the Senate resolution urging pagcor to stop the operations of e-sabong. I have no further recommendations to the President,” Dela Rosa said in a separate message.
Senator Francis Tolentino, for his part, hailed as a “strong statement” Duterte’s directive to end e-sabong activities.
“The President’s decision to finally put an end over the operations of e-sabong is a testament of his political will in ensuring the welfare of the public,” Tolentino said.
Senator Joel Villanueva echoed his colleagues.
Villanueva, who chairs the Senate labor committee, stressed that jobs, not gambling, provide opportunity to Filipinos.
“Naniniwala rin po tayo na malaki ang pinsala ng sugal sa pamilyang Pilipino [We also believe that gambling is damaging to Filipino families],” he said, adding that the President’s decision will protect the country and its youth.
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