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Duterte OK with suspension of e-sabong licenses, says Sotto

President Rodrigo Duterte has agreed to suspend the licenses of online cockfighting or "e-sabong" pending the resolution of the cases of 31 missing cockfighting enthusiasts or "sabungeros,” Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Monday, citing information from Senator Ronald dela Rosa.

“Sen. Dela Rosa informed me that PRRD told him yesterday that he agrees!” Sotto said in a tweet.

In a text message to GMA News Online, Dela Rosa confirmed Sotto’s statement.

“Per my short conversation with the President at the [wedding] of his grandson in Davao City yesterday, I got the impression that he supports the Senate resolution urging [PAGCOR] to suspend the license to operate of [e-sabong] operators,” he said.

“He answered me in bisaya ‘sige!’,” he said in another text message shared to reporters.

Malacañang, meanwhile, said the public should wait for an announcement from Duterte himself.

"Abangan na lang natin mamaya sa Talk to the People, or even before that  kung meron kaming ilalabas na announcement," acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles said at a press briefing.

(Let's just wait for an announcement later during the Talk to the People, or even before that.)

Dela Rosa, a close ally of Duterte, is leading the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, which is investigating the disappearance of the 31 sabungeros.

At a Senate hearing last week, Sotto and Senator Panfilo Lacson proposed a resolution asking Duterte to direct the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) to temporarily stop e-sabong operations.

To be covered are the existing e-sabong licenses of Belvedere Vista Corp., Lucky 8 Star Quest Inc., Visayas Cockers Club Inc., Jade Entertainment And Gaming Technologies, Inc., Newin Cockers Alliance Gaming Corp., Philippine Cockfighting International Inc. and  Golden Buzzer, Inc.

PAGCOR Acting Assistant Vice President for E-Sabong Department Diane Erica Jogno said the agency will heed the suspension of the licenses of the e-sabong.

“We are okay with suspending e-sabong and we will secure approval from the Office of the President,” Jogno previously said.

In a chance interview in Lucena City, Quezon, Lacson said PAGCOR, a government-owned and controlled corporation operating under the Office of the President, is earning around P1.4 billion from online sabong.

However, he pointed out that the lives of the missing cockfight enthusiasts are more important than these revenues.

“Ang kinikita raw ng PAGCOR d’yan nasa mga P1.4 billion. Malaki rin pero ‘yung P1.4 billion, bale wala ‘yon kung ang pinaguusapan natin ay 31 nawawalang sabungero. So mas importante ang buhay,” the presidential candidate said.

(PAGCOR is earning around P1.4 billion but this is nothing if we are talking about 31 missing cockfight enthusiasts. Their lives are more important.)

The next hearing is set on March 4, Friday.

Philippine National Police chief Police General Dionardo Carlos earlier confirmed that the investigators are now looking into the cases of the 31 missing individuals, up from the earlier total of 29.

Investigators are also coordinating with different banks due to reports of ATM cash withdrawals made by unidentified persons using the victims’ bank accounts.  —KBK/RSJ, GMA News