Senator Alan Peter Cayetano on Thursday expressed support for President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s executive order continuing the suspension of e-sabong operations nationwide, saying it is “a necessary step” to protect the wellbeing of Filipinos.
“I believe this is a necessary step to protect the wellbeing of our citizens and prevent the negative consequences of online gambling, such as addiction and financial ruin,” Cayetano, a longstanding critic of e-sabong, said on December 29, 2022.
The President had issued EO No. 9 on December 28 citing the “urgent need to reiterate the continued suspension of all e-sabong operations nationwide, clarify the scope of existing regulations and direct relevant agencies to pursue aggressive crackdown against illegal e-sabong operations, in accordance with law.”
Cayetano said the EO formalizes what then-President Rodrigo Duterte had done last May when he ordered a stop to all e-sabong operations in the country in the wake of the disappearance of 34 “sabungeros” or cockfighters.
The case, which had been linked to cheating in online gambling, has yet to be solved and the 34 sabungeros remain missing after almost two years.
“Bukod sa mga epekto nito sa mga pamilya, may link din ang e-sabong sa krimen tulad ng pagdukot sa 34 sabungero na January 2021 pa nawala,” Cayetano said.
“It is imperative that we do everything in our power to prevent such tragedies from occurring. Kailangan nating maseguro ang kaligtasan ng ating mga kababayan,” he added.
The senator recalled that in ordering the suspension of e-sabong operations in the country, President Duterte cited the negative effect e-sabong was having on Filipinos, saying the activity was “working against our values” despite bringing in millions of pesos monthly in government revenues.
E-sabong operations began in late 2021 when, despite Cayetano’s strong opposition as Taguig-Pateros first district representative, Congress approved the licenses of operators nationwide.
Saying government’s role is both “to do good and prevent evil,” Cayetano continued to oppose e-sabong until Duterte finally ordered a stop to it.
With President Marcos’ EO against e-sabong, Cayetano vowed to continue his campaign against all forms of online gambling.
“E-sabong has been getting the most attention because of the disappearance of 34 men, pero ang totoo niyan, lumalalim na ang ugat ng iba’t ibang klase ng online gambling sa ating bansa,” he said.
The senator also encouraged religious leaders to continue preaching on the evils of e-sabong and warning their congregations about getting involved in online gambling activities.
“Marami tayong mga kababayan, lalo na ang kabataan, na hindi naiintindihan kung bakit nakakasira ng moral fiber ng ating lipunan ang e-sabong at online gambling. Ang pag-asa po natin ay kung ang mga ministro, mga pari, mga pastor, imam, ulama ay magsama-sama na ituro ang paraan ng ating Panginoon,” he said.
“We will continue what we started. Hindi lang e-sabong ang dapat itigil kundi lahat ng uri ng online gambling,” he added.
The former House Speaker had taken a hardline stance against e-sabong throughout 2021, calling for its abolition despite lawmakers approving congressional licenses for online cockfighting operators amid the activity’s growing popularity then.
In September 2021 as the presidential race was shaping up, Cayetano lamented that potential candidates were vocal in certain issues but failed to take strong positions on the issue of e-sabong and online gambling.
“Parang wala akong naririnig samantalang ito can really create a generation of zombies na panay sugal na lang imbes na trabaho,” he said.