Senators say e-sabong franchise already dead in 18th Congress
Citing lack of material time to tackle the measure, at least four senators believe that the passage of the bill seeking to grant a franchise to an online sabong firm is already dead in the 18th Congress.
"Franchise is dead," Senate President Vicente Sotto III said in a text message shared to reporters on Tuesday.
Sotto explained in a press conference that the franchise bill could not be passed as there is no time for the upper chamber to interpellate on the measure.
Upon the resumption of session on May 23, Sotto said they will prioritize the approval of measures which are pending on third reading then a week thereafter, they will be converted into a national canvassing board for the 2022 national and local elections.
Senator Grace Poe, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Services which handles the bill, said there is no time to deliberate on the measure. Apart from that, many oppose the granting of franchise for the operations of e-sabong.
"Kulang sa oras at marami ang hindi sang-ayon," Poe said in a separate text message.
(We don't have enough time and there are many who oppose it.)
Senator Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa, who led the Senate investigation into the missing persons involved in e-sabong activities, said the latest decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to stop e-sabong operations will also affect the passage of the franchise measure.
President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the recommendation of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to stop e-sabong or online cockfighting operations, which is being blamed for the deterioration of moral values among many Filipinos.
"Lack of material time to act on the franchise bill plus the President's stoppage order would mean demise of the e-sabong industry unless the next administration would decide to resurrect it," Dela Rosa said.
Both houses of Congress are currently on break to give way to the 2022 national and local elections campaign. They will resume sessions on May 23 or after the polls.
The 18th Congress will adjourn sine die on June 4 until July 24.
In a press conference in Tagaytay City, Senator Panfilo Lacson said the franchise measure could have been passed in the Senate had he not expressed his intention to interpellate the bill.
Lacson questioned the measure anew, explaining that legislative franchises could only be granted to public utilities.
"First, ang unang tanong public utility ba ang e-sabong para bigyan ng legislative franchise? 'Yun ang basic question. 'Di na-report out 'yon alam nila na may mag-iinterpellate, aabutin din ng adjournment. If I signed without any comment, without any remarks, sigurado yon pasado sa Senate kasi transmitted na sa amin ng House e," Lacson said.
(The question is: Is e-sabong a public utility that should be given a legislative franchise? That is the basic question. The franchise bill was not reported out because they know that there's someone who will interpellate and that may not be passed before the adjournment. If I had signed without any comment, without any remarks, I'm sure that would have already passed in the Senate because that was already transmitted by the House to our chamber.)
Legislative franchises, like tax and appropriations bills, should be passed by the House of Representatives first before the Senate can act on it.
Further, Lacson explained that even the Senate passes the franchise bill, it might face Duterte's veto as he already ordered a stop in e-sabong operations.
"Unang-una, assuming na mag-debate, maipasa, mas sigurado kaysa hindi na i-veto ng presidente kasi nag-announce na siya e. He wants to end it. So I think it's an exercise in futility to even submit it as an enrolled bill kasi syempre ibi-veto 'yan kasi ang sabi ng presidente: 'Let's end e-sabong,'" he added.
(Assuming that it passed through debate, I am sure that the president will veto it because he already announced that he wants to end it. So, I think it's an exercise in futility to even submit it as an enrolled bill because that could be vetoed by the president. He said, 'Let's end e-sabong.')
For his part, Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III said e-sabong franchise bills should not be fast-tracked as it needs further deliberations, specifically on its effects on society.
"Pagdating sa e-sabong franchise bill(s), dapat hindi ito madaliin. Dapat pag-usapan [nang] mabuti kung ano ba talaga ang mga epekto ng legalization ng mga iba't-ibang uri ng sugal tulad ng e-sabong," he said.
(E-sabong franchise bills should not be hastened. We should deliberate thoroughly on the effects of the legalization of different types of gambling like e-sabong.)
"Wag madaliin. Mas mabuti siguro ipa-desisyon na ito sa bagong papasok na Kongreso," he added.
(We should not fast-track it. It is better if the decision will be made by the incoming Congress.)
In an earlier statement, Poe said the issue of missing cockfighters should be resolved first before the franchise of Lucky 8 Star Quest could be tackled in her panel.
Lucky 8 Star Quest Inc., a firm owned by gaming tycoon Charlie “Atong” Ang, is one of the e-sabong licensees being questioned over the disappearance of the cockfight enthusiasts.
Last September 2021, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading the bill granting Atong Ang’s Lucky 8 Star Quest Inc. a franchise to operate anywhere in the Philippines offsite betting activities on duly-licensed cockfighting, derbies and similar activities through online or other modern means. —KG/BM, GMA News