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PAGCOR chief: Independent regulator needed for e-sabong

Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) Chair and Chief Executive Officer Andrea Domingo on Wednesday said e-sabong or online cockfighting operations should have an independent regulator, citing the controversies surrounding the industry.

According to Domingo, e-sabong operations contribute about 8% to 9% of the total income of the agency, but the  controversies surrounding it also impact the remaining 90%.

“Kung mayroong isa lamang na magha-handle niyan, mawawala na sa PAGCOR, we can concentrate on our present offerings, on what we should regulate, tapos ‘yung sa AMLC, mas madali naming mama-manage at mas magiging effective ‘yung aming responsible gaming policies,” she said during the Kapihan sa Manila Bay virtual forum.

(If there would be a sole agency to handle this and it would be removed from PAGCOR, we can concentrate on our present offerings, on what we should regulate, and we will be able to easily manage AMLC and our responsible gaming policies would be much more effective.)

Domingo was referring to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), which looks into bank deposits or investments that could be involved in unlawful activity or money laundering.

Under its mandate, PAGCOR is required to regulate the gaming industry, generate revenues for the Philippine government's socio-civic and national development programs, and help promote the tourism industry.

Domingo said the e-sabong industry contributed about P650 million a month to the gross gaming revenues of PAGCOR.

“Kailangan siguro may nakatutok dahil hybrid ‘yung e-sabong eh, may traditional operations na controlled ng LGU (local government units), hindi namin controlled ang laro, controlled lang namin ang online betting,” she said.

(There is a need for an agency to focus on it because e-sabong is a hybrid. The traditional operations are controlled by the LGU. We do not control that, we only control online betting.)

E-sabong operations have faced issues such as the disappearance of persons involved in the industry, along with its continued operations even during the Holy Week.

The PAGCOR was earlier questioned as to why an e-sabong event pushed through during the observance of Good Friday, April 15, which was declared as a regular holiday.

Domingo on Wednesday explained that operations pushed through, because there were traditional cockfighting operations given permits by local mayors, which were then livestreamed.

“’Ang ginawa namin, sinulatan ang mga mayor to explain. ‘Yung karamihan nung laro nung based on traditional sabong, nagpasabong talaga,” she said.

(We wrote the mayors to explain that most of the games followed the traditional cockfighting schedule.)

New agency to bloat bureaucracy

Presidential candidate and Senator Panfilo Lacson said there was no need for another agency as this will further bloat the bureaucracy.

He urged PAGCOR to address its management issues to fix the controversies hounding the e-sabong industry.

"Ang problema, we'll create another agency as regulatory body? Parang against naman yan sa rightsizing. Nagra-rightsize nga ang gobyerno kasi bloated tapos magke-create ka pa ng isang regulatory agency just to regulate E-sabong," Lacson explained.

(The problem is we'll create another agency as a regulatory body. That is against the rightsizing policy of the government because it is already bloated.)

"Parang sa akin ano, kung sa PAGCOR, PAGCOR na lang. Ang reason lang naman nya di ba 90% controversy, 10% revenue, ganun ba? Eh di iregulate nang maayos para hindi mapasali ang mga bata minors na tumataya, OFW tumataya, kung sinu-sino. I-regulate nang maayos lang kung ang habol lang nila yung revenue out of the e-sabong activity. Yun na lang siguro," he added.

(For me, if it is under PAGCOR, it should stick with PAGCOR. Was the reason behind that is they face 90% controversy and 10% revenue? If that's so, they should regulate the activities properly so that minors and OFWs cannot place their bets. They should regulate it properly if they want to collect revenues out of the e-sabong activity.)

Vice presidential candidate and Senate President Vicente Sotto III, who participated in the Senate investigation into the missing persons involved in e-sabong, said te idea of a new agency should have been raised in the hearing.

"Bakit hindi niya sinabi sa amin 'yan nung naghi-hearing kami tungkol sa E-sabong? Unless she did not think of that idea yet during that time," Sotto said in a press conference at Ormoc City Hall.

(Why did she not raise that when we were conducting the hearing on e-sabong? Unless she did not think of that idea yet during that time.)

"But I think it's a sound idea kasi hindi naman talaga even ang paghingi ng franchise ng e-sabong, public utility ba ang sabong? Yun ang hinihingi ng franchise eh. Public utilities eh," he added.

(But I think it's a sound idea because we cannot also issue a franchise for e-sabong operations. Is sabong a public utility? That's a requirement for a franchise. It should be a public utility.)—LBG, GMA News