Limit e-sabong to Sundays and holidays, probe Atong Ang — Bato

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 18) — Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa has given a sneak peek of his committee’s recommendations as he wrapped up the legislative inquiry on the disappearances of 34 individuals linked to online cockfighting or e-sabong.

The recommendations include the crafting of a new law that will regulate the e-sabong industry and restrict its operations to Sundays and legal holidays — similar to the existing law on traditional cockfighting.

“Mababawasan ang addiction ng mga sabungero (This will lessen the addiction to cockfighting),” Dela Rosa, chairman of the committee on public order and dangerous drugs, told reporters after the fourth hearing on Monday.

During the hearing, Senator Francis Tolentino cried foul over the continued operations of e-sabong even on Good Friday.

“There was a gross violation of our faith. I don’t know why it was done. Probably, PAGCOR slept on its job,” Tolentino said, referring to the regulator, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation.

Dela Rosa said he will seek an explanation from PAGCOR with regard to the matter. CNN Philippines has also requested comment from the state-owned corporation.

Dela Rosa said the committee will recommend the filing of charges against suspects in the supposed abductions of cockfight bettors and enthusiasts. To date, cases have been filed in two out of eight cases investigated by authorities wherein a total of 34 people have been missing since last year and early this year.

Gambling tycoon Atong Ang, owner of the arenas where most of the victims were last seen, has denied any hand in their disappearances. But Dela Rosa is not convinced. He said the committee report will include Ang.

“We will recommend for CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group) and the DOJ (Department of Justice) to gather more evidence against Atong Ang and the other officials of Pitmasters,” Dela Rosa said.

“Alangan namang magbibingi-bingihan, magbubulag-bulagan lang yung committee. Eh very clear naman na kanilang sabungan ‘yun. Sinong makikinabang doon? So aabot yan hanggang doon kay Atong Ang,” he added.

[Translation: The committee can’t just play deaf or blind when it’s very clear that they own the cockpit. Who will benefit from that? So, the committee report will include people as high as Atong Ang.]

Dela Rosa said the committee will also seek to require CCTV cameras in betting stations, gambling arenas, and other gaming sites by making it a prerequisite for the issuance of business permits. The lack of security footage hampered investigations in some of the cases tackled during the hearings.

The panel also wants strict collection of taxes from e-sabong operators and agents, an institutionalized reward system for cooperative witnesses and increased penalty for obstruction of justice, and safeguards for e-wallets to prevent minors from accessing e-sabong, Dela Rosa said.

Earlier, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution urging Malacañang to suspend e-sabong operations due to the disappearances but President Rodrigo Duterte said it's legal, and that the government needs the revenues collected from it.