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PAGCOR fears lost revenues, legal charges if gov't suspends e-sabong licenses

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) has expressed reservations on the Senate’s call to suspend the licenses of "e-sabong" firms amid the disappearances of cockfight enthusiasts, citing billions of pesos in lost revenues and possible legal charges from stakeholders.

During the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs’ second hearing on the cases of missing “sabungeros,” PAGCOR chairperson Andrea Domingo explained that while they want the issue to be resolved, the suspension of e-sabong is not an “easy thing to do because it has a very strong effect on the revenue generation.”

According to her, the average monthly revenue from e-sabong from May to December 2021 is around P400 million. She said it grew to P640 million a month since January of this year.

“In PAGCOR, therefore, we stand to the peril of having to pay P640 million pesos a month while we suspend the operations without a clear and legal basis,” Domingo said.

“We are all emotional here. I do condole with everybody who suffered from this but we also have to look into the repercussions of this, with this loss of revenues committed by us — because when you urge us, you actually give us the responsibility of using our own discretion to implement the sense of the Senate. So, therefore, in the final analysis, it would be PAGCOR who would be responsible for the decision,” she added.

Legal charges

Domingo also raised possible legal charges that they may face should they heed the Senate’s call to suspend the licenses of the e-sabong firms.

She cited a case of former Immigration commissioners who were directed by the Commission on Audit to return billions of peosos because they followed one of the former Philippine president’s directive to reduce the cost of the I-Card being levied against foreigners in the country.

Apart from the possible liabilities in COA, Domingo said they may face legal charges for violating their contracts with the e-sabong licensees.

“With that, we excuse that chance of being charged in court for damages for breaching our contract with them and not following our legal obligations with them, contractual obligations,” Domingo said.

Under their agreement with the e-sabong licensees, Domingo said operators would need to pay P2.5 million for the license, P75 million cash performance bond, and P75 minimum guarantee every month.

“While we do really want to solve this problem of missing persons, PAGCOR is a civilian government corporation that is not empowered and does not have the authority that the law enforcement agencies have. Neither do we have the authority to conduct criminal investigation nor the capability to do so,” Domingo further argued.

“And this is a very important matter, that it could yield P7 billion in a year, this year. That could help government with its health problems and economic problems that we, on our own, can decide… So I don't know how to solve these problems your honor,” she added.

What's more important?

Senator Ronald dela Rosa, chairman of the committee, asked Domingo pointblank if she thinks these revenues are more important than the life of the missing sabungeros.

Domingo, in response, said one life is more important than the possible government income from the online gambling activity.

At this point, Dela Rosa questioned PAGCOR’s stand on the issue.

“It goes without saying na kung gusto maraming paraan, kung ayaw maraming dahilan [if you wanted to do it, you will find ways to do it, but if you don't want to, you will give us so many reasons not to do it],” Dela Rosa said.

“We are giving you the solid assist. Itong resolution pirmado ng 24 na senador [this resolution is signed by 24 senators] … Now, the ball is in your hands. It’s up to you to make the winning three-point shot for the Filipino people or you will dribble the time away hanggang mag-adjourn itong (until we adjourn the) 18th congress or you throw the ball out of bounds para the opposing team to get the ball possession,” he added.

Resolution 996

Proposed Senate Resolution 996, filed last Monday, urges PAGCOR to suspend online sabong's license to operate and stop all activities related to it until the cases of missing sabungeros are resolved.

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.

“Law enforcement agencies are deeply concerned that there might be more “e-sabong” related abductions and disappearances than that of reported… It appears that the abductions were well-planned and was probably done by trained and organized groups,” the resolution read.

Last week, 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

The number of missing sabungeros is now 34, Dela Rosa said in the hearing, citing the police. —KBK, GMA News