Cayetano to lawmakers: Why give e-sabong 25-year franchises?

Former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano challenged lawmakers to be more critical of the 25-year franchise applications from e-sabong operators currently being discussed in the Lower House amid mounting opposition to the measure from religious leaders and other legislators.

This as members of the House of Representatives are considering approving a second franchise application by an e-sabong operator despite existing regulations put in place by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) since April this year.

Kumbaga y’ung emergency use ng e-sabong na ginawa ng PAGCOR eh binigyan ang operators ng license kasi emergency daw sila, wala na silang pondo,” Cayetano said.

“Pero bakit mo bibigyan ngayon ang e-sabong operators ng full access o full authorization ng 25 years na hindi pa nga nakaka-six months, hindi mo pa nakikita kung eto talaga ay nakakabuti o nakakasama or neutral sa ating society,” he added.

(PAGCOR’s emergency use of e-sabong, so to speak, is to grant licenses to operators because the agency said it was running out of cash. But why would you give e-sabong operators full access or full authorization for 25 years when we’ve regulated them for barely six months, we haven’t seen whether it is beneficial or harmful or neutral to society?)

We know naman that one member of Congress, kahit five or ten cannot tell PAGCOR to do something and they’ll just do it. The President can pero kami hindi. Pero y’ung pagbibigay ng franchise may say naman tayo dyan at yun nga, bakit mo bibigyan ng 25 years na mag-operate ang e-sabong ng hindi mo pa nga alam yung epekto nito ‘di ba?” he added.

(We know that one member of Congress, even five or ten, cannot tell PAGCOR to do something and they’ll just do it. The President can, not us. But we do have a say in the granting of franchises, so why would you give them 25 years to operate without fully knowing its effect on society?)

Cayetano made the remarks at a press conference on Thursday, December 2, days after the newly-installed head of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) denounced the legalization of e-sabong as a “disastrous” move by the government.

“In the context of the pandemic that has locked down the elderly, the vulnerable, and the children for too long, the legalization of e-sabong has been one of the most disastrous things ever allowed by the government,” CBCP President Bishop Pablo Virgilio David said in a November 30, 2021 Facebook post.

The former House Speaker, who vehemently opposed the approval of the 25-year franchise granted by Congress to e-sabong operator Lucky 8 Star Quest Inc. in September, said the best outcome would still be for PAGCOR to revoke the operating licenses it has given to at least seven operators.

We’re not asking, you know, for people to be unreasonable ‘di ba, but of course kung ako tatanungin mo, gusto ko i-revoke din ng PAGCOR y’ung license, pero nandyan ‘yan eh, nag-o-operate na,” Cayetano said. 

(We’re not asking, you know, for people to be unreasonable, but of course if it were up to me, I would want PAGCOR to also revoke their licenses, but it’s already there, they’re already operating.)

The lawmaker suggested that members of the House can simply allow PAGCOR to implement its existing regulatory framework for e-sabong operators for at least six months, and commission a report on the revenues generated from licensing fees and the operations’ impact on society, instead of outrightly granting 25-year franchises.

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