Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered an immediate ban on online cockfighting, also known as e-sabong, following a spate of associated abductions.
Duterte announced the ban during a regular address on Monday, reversing his previous declaration that he did not want to suspend e-sabong operations due to the revenue it generated for the government.
“The recommendation of [Interior Secretary Eduardo Año] is to do away with e-sabong and he cited the validation report coming from all sources. So it’s his recommendation and I agree with it, it’s good, so e-sabong will end,” the President said, adding that the Php640 million (US$12 million) in monthly tax collections did not justify the sport’s ongoing presence.
“We are only after the tax collection, but after the stories I’ve heard, it was very loud and clear to me that it was working against our values. It is impacting people and their families.”
According to local media reports, a survey conducted by the Department of the Interior and Local Government on e-sabong operations found that 62% of respondents wanted the pastime banned. It also uncovered multiple stories of people pawning possessions in order to bet on e-sabong.
As previously reported by IAG, investigations have been underway into the disappearance of 31 people in cases believed to be linked to betting on the popular bloodsport, said to be an important tradition in the Philippines.
The disappearances included 10 men who went missing shortly after being seen in cockfighting arenas in Laguna and Manila on 13 January, another six men after participating in a cockfighting tournament in Manila on the same day and 10 men from Bulacan who have been missing since attended a cockfighting match in mid-2021.
Secretary Año said, “The DILG welcomes the President’s decision to stop e-Sabong. Government policies must take heed of the pulse of the people. This decision is rooted in a survey reflecting the sentiment of the people. This wasn’t a rushed decision.”
Philippine gaming regulator PAGCOR only began issuing licenses to selected e-sabong operators in May 2021 in an effort to raise revenues while stamping out illegal online activities.
The regulator said at the time that it “advises the public not to engage in any gaming activity from unlicensed e-sabong operators and unregistered e-sabong websites to avoid being duped and cheated of your hard-earned money.
“It is for the above reasons that PAGCOR had to step in to regulate the emerging industry to primarily protect the Filipino players and to ensure that the government get its appropriate share of revenues from their operations. Without regulation, e-sabong will proliferate and have far reaching detrimental effects on its players.”