Former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Friday thanked the Senate for its support in the fight against e-sabong as Senator Grace Poe, chair of the Committee on Public Service, on Thursday suspended the hearing and said she was inclined to have the bill go through a technical working group (TWG) that will examine not just the operations but the social ills the game creates.
“There truly is a need for comprehensive discussions on e-sabong so that we can take these social ills into consideration,” Cayetano said in a statement on December 10, 2021.
“As this is a policy bill, I have been calling for thorough deliberations to extensively discuss not only the provisions of the proposed measure but the industry itself, especially considering the 25-year franchises for not just one but several operators,” he added.
Thursday’s Senate hearing, chaired by Poe and attended by officials of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), addressed the bill seeking to grant a 25-year franchise to Lucky 8 Star Quest Inc.
The House of Representatives had already given its go-ahead to the company last September.
Cayetano said that e-sabong’s contribution to the nation’s coffers is meager compared with the negative social impact it will certainly create. “According to the World Health Organization, gambling-related burden is three times more harmful than drug use disorder,” he added.
“Gambling is known to be addictive and it can drive people to do things just to continue their vice. With e-sabong the problem is multiplied because it is easily accessible using one’s mobile phone. In fact a 19-year-old youth was arrested recently in Maco, Davao de Oro because he couldn’t pay his e-sabong debt of more than half a million pesos,” he said in his statement.
He also pointed to the account shared in Thursday’s Senate hearing of the nephew of former Candaba, Pampanga Mayor Jerry Pelayo who committed suicide after losing heavily in e-sabong.
“If we allow e-sabong to proliferate, pretty soon we will have broken families, communities in conflict, and a nation struggling to provide services to those who are addicted to it. The problems far outweigh any benefit e-sabong provides,” he added.
Cayetano said he was particularly concerned for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families who stand to lose all they had worked for and saved if they or their families get hooked into e-sabong.
“Our modern day heroes need to be shielded from this because they can easily lose it all in a matter of minutes,” he said.
He also thanked religious organizations such as the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC), and the Philippines for Jesus Movement (PJM) for taking a stand against e-sabong.
“I am grateful that our brothers and sisters in these groups have also highlighted the negative effects of this issue on our families. Let us remain united in a faith-based and values-oriented mindset in serving our kababayan,” Cayetano said.
He also pointed out that PAGCOR had the authority to grant licenses in order to raise funds for the government during the pandemic, but not as a long-term operation.
“We’ve only been regulating them for about 7 months — this is not enough to grant e-sabong operators a franchise to operate for 25 years. If the goal is to augment government funds during the pandemic, 25 years is too long. Seven months in, we’re already seeing its negative impact on society” he said.
“The government must rethink its position on e-sabong because we will lose much more than we will gain. I appreciate the Senate for its fair hearing and for taking a more rational approach to this issue, and I am confident that with the opposition they had voiced during Thursday’s hearing, we will be able to put a stop to this new pandemic,” Cayetano added.