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Palace orders probe on missing 'sabungeros'

Malacañang has allowed "e-sabong" operations to continue despite calls from senators stemming from the case of the 34 missing cockfighting enthusiasts or "sabungeros."

Instead, the Palace ordered the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into the case of the missing sabungeros and submit a report within 30 days.

"Unless otherwise directed, the operations of e-sabong licensees will remain unaffected, pending the result of the abovementioned investigations," Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said in a memorandum dated March 8, 2022.

Medialdea's memo also tasked the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) to probe violations over issued e-sabong, or online cockfighting, licenses and ensure the compliance with security and surveillance under its Regulatory Framework by installing CCTV systems in gaming sites, among others.

A resolution has been filed at the Senate asking President Rodrigo Duterte and PAGCOR to suspend issuance of e-sabong licenses pending resolution of the missing "sabungeros" issue.

The PNP on Wednesday said kidnapping and serious illegal detention complaints will be filed this week against six security personnel over the disappearances of six persons involved in cockfighting operations at the Manila Arena.

The complaints are for the case of the disappearances of Marlon Baccay, James Baccay, Mark Joseph Velasco, Rondel Cristorum, Rowel Gomez, and John Claude Inonog on January 13.

During a Senate hearing last week, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) said a witness identified six suspects in the disappearance of cockfight enthusiasts at Sta. Ana's Manila Arena.

The cockpit arena guards, meanwhile, denied having any knowledge on the disappearances.


Meanwhile, Senate President Vicente Sotto III expressed the Senate's disappointment with the Palace decision.

"The disappointment of the Senate cannot compare to the disappointment of the families affected," Sotto said at a press conference in Pasig City.

"When I say families affected, hindi lang ‘yung may nawawalang mga kaanak, ‘yung mga nagrereklamong pamilya dahil namomroblema sila sa kanilang kapamilya na nalululong sa e-sabong. Double disappointment kaysa sa amin," he added.

(When I say families affected, I'm not only referring to those who have missing relatives but also those who complain about their kin who are getting addicted to e-sabong. It's a double disappointment for them.)

Sotto said it will be "useless" to make an appeal before Malacañang, hitting the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) for bringing its apparent opposition to the Senate resolution before Duterte instead of just heeding the call of the lawmakers.

"It will be useless. Sapagkat sa totoo niyan, ako ay nalulungkot na ang PAGCOR dinala pa sa Presidente ang usapin samantalang puwede ‘yon aksyunan. What does it say? Ayaw nila," Sotto said.

(I am saddened that PAGCOR has brought this issue to the President instead of taking action on our call. What does it say? They don’t want it [suspension of operations].) — KBK/RSJ, GMA News