Former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Friday called on the government to declare a policy against the “new pandemic” of online cockfighting and gambling.
“There is a new pandemic that the government is not trying to stop, bagkus [ay] baliktad (even more so the other way around). It seems the government is pushing this pandemic through PAGCOR and I hope Congress is not part of it,” Cayetano said at a press conference on November 19, 2021 in Taguig City.
The former Speaker made the comment days after the the House Committee on Ways and Means approved House Bill No. 10204 which aims to grant Visayas Cockers Club, Inc. a 25-year franchise to operate off-site betting stations anywhere in the country.
If the bill gets passed on third and final reading, Visayas Cockers Club Inc. will be the second licensed e-sabong operator in the country to be granted a 25-year franchise, following Lucky 8 Star Quest, Inc. whose franchise was approved last September.
Cayetano cited the 1939 case of People v. Punto to show how even nearly a century ago, the Supreme Court had already recognized that gambling must be prohibited because it “undermines the social, moral, and economic growth of the nation.”
He said despite this, gaming and gambling have found a way to corrupt and circumvent regulatory policies.
“When you make gaming and gambling available on the internet and you allow e-wallets, is the government now preventing an evil or ang gobyerno pa ba ang tumutulak (is the government the one pushing for it)?” he said.
Cayetano also cited the case of a 19-year-old student in Maco, Davao de Oro who was arrested on November 3, 2021 after failing to pay P561,000 in debt to e-sabong.
He said before the COVID-19 pandemic, many cities allowed cockfighting but were regulated by the local government units.
“Why is this important? Because regulation is important,” he said, adding that with online gambling, there is a lack of regulation and a lack of protection.
Minors, mentally vulnerable people, people gambling money they do not own, habitual gamblers, and other people are open to the evils of gambling, he said.
Cayetano also said once e-gambling gains ground, other forms of gambling are sure to follow.
“Once binuksan mo ang pinto, hindi mo pwedeng sabihin na ‘Hoy! E-sabong lang pwede. Hindi pwede e-casino, hindi pwede ending, hindi pwede sports betting.’ Diyan [na] papunta ‘yan,” he noted.
(Once we open the door to online gambling, we cannot say that only e-sabong is allowed and say that e-casinos, e-ending, or sports betting are banned. This is where we are heading.)
Cayetano conceded that while the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) is bringing in revenue to the government through its regulatory functions over e-sabong, the amount generated — P2.8 billion — is minuscule compared with the social damage online gambling can bring.