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De Lima slams Duterte for justifying operations of e-sabong

Senator Leila de Lima on Sunday slammed President Rodrigo Duterte’s justification of the continued operations of e-sabong, alleging that cockfighting generates billions in revenue.

De Lima, who is running for reelection in the May 9 polls, said she lamented how Duterte has chosen to drumbeat the purported huge revenues derived from online cockfighting instead of acknowledging its ill effects.

“There is no reason to allow e-sabong to continue to operate if it brings more harm than good. Hindi dapat ibinibida ng gobyerno yung malaking kita sa sugal. Sa halip, ang dapat ipinapaliwanag sa mga tao ay ang mga hindi magandang epekto ng sugal lalo na sa mga kabataan,” she said.

(The government should not announce the big earnings from gambling. Instead, it should explain to the public the ill effects of gambling especially among the youth.)

“We can always recover economic losses by other means or sources, but the social costs and harm done to our youth’s psycho are irreversible,” she added.

Duterte earlier maintained that he is not keen on suspending the operations of e-sabong, stating that the government is getting billions of pesos from its operations. 

Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) chairperson Andrea Domingo said it is projected that they can collect up to P8 billion from e-sabong operations this year.

To recall, the Senate transmitted to Malacañang and the PAGCOR its resolution calling for the suspension of e-sabong operations in the country after the disappearance of at least 31 sabungeros.

Duterte then told lawmakers they would understand his position if they had an idea of just how much e-sabong generates in terms of revenue.

During an event in Palo, Leyte on Thursday, Duterte also said the disappearance of persons involved in e-sabong should not be blamed on online cockfighting operations but on "evil men doing something wrong." 

However, De Lima pointed out that the legalization of gambling and e-sabong has only strengthened the network of jueteng gambling lords and their power and influence over national and local politics.

“Let us not forget that corruption, which continues to be prevalent in the country and is considered as the most basic problem of Philippine society, is also rooted in jueteng as a form of gambling,” the Senator said.

“Now, jueteng lords have started to diversify and invest in legal gambling. This has served to reinforce the conduct of illegal jueteng by a sheer monopoly of power over the gambling industry by jueteng lords,” she added.

Aside from its corrupting effect, De Lima stressed that e-gambling carries with it a lot of auxiliary vices and crimes that are truly alarming.

She stated these include prostitution, human trafficking, drugs, money laundering and now kidnapping or serious illegal detention and possibly, murder.

“It costs too much to police. It is not something that we should promote to our people as a way of life. Hindi kailanman matutumbasan ng ipinagmamalaking kita ng gobyerno ang masisirang kinabukasan, lalo na ng kabataan,” De Lima said. —Mel Matthew Doctor/KG, GMA News