𝗕𝗔𝗚𝗨𝗜𝗢 𝗖𝗢𝗨𝗡𝗖𝗜𝗟 𝗣𝗥𝗢𝗕𝗘𝗦 𝗘-𝗦𝗔𝗕𝗢𝗡𝗚 𝗕𝗘𝗧𝗧𝗜𝗡𝗚
The Sangguniang Panlungsod ng Baguio invited the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) to its regular session last Monday to find out whether there are online cockfighting operations in the city.
Rodenmarx Gatdula, Branch Manager of PAGCOR E-Sabong Licensing Department, disclosed there are only four licensed e-sabong operators in the country, none of which is operating in the City of Baguio.
Councilor Philian Weygan-Allan, however, revealed that a raid had been conducted by police operatives and anti-narcotics agents in a gambling den in the city this month and that one of the games being played was e-sabong. Online betting may be run by an unlicensed entity who gains access to the cockfight live stream through illegal means, she said. Weygan-Allan feared the rise of illegal e-sabong operations may become a serious concern in the city.
Gatdula said the local government and PAGCOR must work together to crack down on the illegal conduct of online gambling activities. E-sabong is the online or remote betting on live cockfighting matches in licensed cockfighting arenas. The cockfights are broadcasted live on an online betting platform.
Cockfighting activities in licensed cockpit arenas are regulated by the concerned local government unit, whereas the operations of online cockfighting in the entire country are monitored and regulated by PAGCOR.
Electronic cockfighting started to flourish last year at the height of the pandemic. Gatdula said PAGCOR received an instruction from Malacañang to regulate this booming gambling industry.
The E-Sabong Licensing Department of PAGCOR headed by Gatdula developed a regulatory framework that governs the issuance of a license to e-sabong operators, the requirements and standards for an e-sabong platform, and account funding of players, among others.
Based on the said framework, the player’s initial minimum fund to be able to participate in online betting shall be P1,000.00 to be maintained for 30 days. The minimum bet shall be P100.00 per fight. The councilors expressed alarm that the online betting platform can be easily accessed by anyone.
Councilor Michael Lawana said online gambling such as e-sabong is the “worst form of gambling” as there is no concrete regulatory mechanism put in place to prevent minors from participating. Gatdula further explained that E-sabong is “not territorial” which means Baguio residents can play e-sabong by accessing the online platform hosted by a licensed operator which is based somewhere else. “Anyone within the Philippine territory can have access to the digital platform to play e-sabong as long as they comply with the requirements set by PAGCOR,” Gatdula added.
Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda stressed that the city has an ordinance banning all cockfighting operations, asserting that PAGCOR should respect the policy of the City Government of Baguio and other LGUs.“Presidential Decree No. 449 very clearly states it is the LGU that issues a license for the operation of cockfighting.
But that license is only effective only within the territorial jurisdiction of the LGU, but you are now making it appear like the LGU-issued license is applicable all over the Philippines. That is an infringement on our local autonomy,” Tabanda stated.
Presidential Decree No. 449, otherwise known as the Cockfighting Law of 1974, stipulates that city and municipal mayors are authorized to “issue licenses for the operation and maintenance of cockpits.”Gatdula claimed that an LGU may request PAGCOR through a council resolution to have its residents restricted from accessing the e-sabong platform. PAGCOR has a national database that monitors and regulates the participation of players of online gambling around the country, he added.
Lawana, however, questioned the reliability of the registration process to screen residents from restricted places, claiming anyone can use fake information to gain access to the betting platform. The matter was referred to the Sanggunian’s Committee on Laws to be studied further for any possible legislation to be passed by the city council.
Meanwhile, Councilor Fred Bagbagen questioned the legality of e-sabong, echoing the opinion of Deputy Speaker and Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr. that e-sabong is illegal unless PD 449 is amended.
Abante said e-sabong is conducted every day despite a provision in PD 449 which states that “cockfighting shall be allowed only in licensed cockpits during Sundays and legal holidays and during local fiestas for not more than three days.”Abante also questioned the authority of PAGCOR to issue a license to entities for the operation of e-sabong, asserting that only the concerned LGU can issue a license for the operation of cockpits.
According to Gatdula, PAGCOR sought a legal opinion from the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) and the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The OSG and DOJ recognize the authority of PAGCOR to regulate e-sabong, he said.
On its website, PAGCOR listed four e-sabong operators that are licensed and allowed to commence operations. These are Belvedere Vista Corporation, Lucky 8 Star Quest Inc., E-Sports Encuentro Live Corporation, and Visayas Cockers Club, Inc. –Jordan G. Habbiling