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Senate panel recommends further probe on Atong Ang, e-sabong firm over missing sabungeros

The Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs has recommended further investigation on gaming tycoon Atong Ang and his e-sabong firm, Lucky 8 Star Quest in connection with the disappearance of several cockfight enthusiasts.

This was contained in the committee report of the panel that which was uploaded in the Senate website.

Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa was supposed to sponsor the committee report in the Senate plenary today but the chamber adjourned its session until Monday.

In the report, the Senate committee has recommended the Philippine National Police's Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) as well as the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) "to conduct further investigation against the officers, personnel and employees of Lucky 8 Star Quest, Inc. including, Mr. Charlie "Atong" Ang" after his name has been repeatedly mentioned by witnesses during the hearing and operator of the arenas in Manila, Laguna and Batangas, where the missing persons were last seen.

During the previous hearing of the Senate, Ang claimed that  other e-sabong licensees, including a retired national police chief and former and incumbent congressmen, were “conspiring” against him over his handling of the biggest online sabong operations in the country.

The businessman made the remark as he cried foul of alleged “trial by publicity” and his firm, Lucky 8 Star Quest Inc., being singled out by the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs.

The committee noted Lucky 8 Star Quest Inc.'s defense, insisting that their corporation was not part of any betting transactions in the matches it broadcasts or facilitates and thus, they claim to be not directly interested or invested in the results of the matches thereby making them indifferent to whoever wins or loses in a match.

However, the Senate panel also took into consideration the statement of Atty. Angelo Nino Santos, president of Lucky 8 Star Quest Inc. during the hearing, admitting that the arenas where the missing persons disappeared are under the management and operation of the e-sabong firm.

"Operation and management of the arenas entails that the cockfighting event being held there are in accordance with established rules of sabong. Despite the claim of Lucky 8 Star Quest, Inc. that they are merely broadcasting the matches, they are still the one in control of what matches or fights will be held in their arenas," the committee report read.

"The President of Lucky 8 Star Quest Inc. himself testified during the Committee hearing that they manage and operate the cockpit arenas, and even hold events, where the missing individuals disappeared. The corporation did not also deny that the security personnel inside their arenas, who were allegedly identified by some of the witnesses, were the same persons who detained the missing individuals are employed by them," it added.

Apart from Ang, the Senate panel, based on its findings, also recommended further investigation against Santos and other officers and directors involved in operation of their corporation and the arenas under their management "to shed light as to the whereabouts of the missing persons."

Also, the Senate panel has recommended the PNP-CIDG and NBI to further investigate those individuals who "intentionally gave false or fabricated information to mislead law enforcement agencies in their investigation."

Should there be sufficient evidence, the Senate panel urged the filing of cases of obstruction of justice, false testimony and other appropriate charges.

The PNP and NBI were also asked to continue investigating all reported cases of missing persons in relation to e-sabong activities until they are finally resolved and to ensure that laws enacted to regulate gambling activities are enforced and complied with by all concerned entities.

The Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs also recommended the next administration, if it decides to allow the operation of e-sabong, to craft a law regulating the online sabong industry.

The legislation should include limiting e-sabong operations to Sundays and legal holidays, similar to the provisions of Presidential Decree No 449 or the Cockfighting Law of 1974.

The Senate panel also said the regulation should include "clear delineation of powers and functions of government agencies involved in sabong, strict implementation of imposition of taxes to e-sabong operators and its agents, and installation of CCTV cameras not only in betting station but as well as in areas where the actual cockfighting are being conducted." —NB, GMA News