Press Release
March 4, 2022

Grace Poe's hearing transcripts
March 4, 2022

Last week, I joined the hearing on e-sabong disappearances with an open mind, considering that an e-sabong franchise application was reported out by the committee on public services last month.

Our search for the truth behind the disappearance of at least 31 sabungeros and cockfighting aficionados did not only highlight the social costs of gambling, but also revealed a more glaring reality about the e-sabong industry. And while I believe that regulation of the industry is necessary, it was clear from the discussion that the existing regulatory framework for e-sabong under Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) is plagued with problems and deficiencies. Marami pang kailangang ayusin at resolbahin tulad na lamang ng pinakasimpleng kawalan ng CCTV sa loob ng mga cockfight arena na magiging sagot sana sa mabilis na pagresolba ng mga kasong ito. Gayundin ang laganap na game-fixing at ang kakulangan sa oversight sa pag-isyu ng permit ng mga local government at ng PAGCOR.

We should also consider the lack of an impact assessment study on e-sabong as part of PAGCOR's deficiencies, considering that more Filipinos are patronizing the online game not only as a form of entertainment but also as a way out of poverty. Unlike the traditional sabong, its accessibility and availability anytime and anywhere exposes everyone, even children, to gambling. Presidential Decree (PD) 449 or the Cockfighting Law which governs the traditional sabong does not extend its limitations on operations schedule to e-sabong. PAGCOR should look into this as well.

It is worth noting that under the proposed e-sabong franchise, PAGCOR will remain to be the primary agency responsible to supervise and regulate offsite betting on remotely broadcasted cockfighting matches. So, it is necessary that before we pursue any regulatory endeavors, PAGCOR should find resolution to these matters first.

As with most of our colleagues, it also disturbs me that four out of six cases happened in arenas being operated by the franchise applicant, Lucky 8 Star Quest Inc. As chairperson of the committee on public services, it is my responsibility to make sure that the franchise applicants are free from any liabilities, among other requirements, prior to the grant of a franchise. Again, I believe in order to move forward, we need first to resolve these issues.

We likewise support the call of Senate President Sotto for PAGCOR to immediately suspend all e-sabong licenses in the interim. This action is well within the tenets of PAGCOR's charter, PD 1869 as amended by Republic Act 9487, which is grounded on the policy: "to minimize, if not totally eradicate the evils, malpractices and corruptions that are normally prevalent in the conduct and operation of gambling clubs and casinos without direct government involvement." Sec. 3(l) of the charter says that part of PAGCOR's power is "to do anything and everything necessary, proper, desirable, convenient or suitable for the accomplishment of any of the purpose or the attainment of any of the objects or the furtherance of any of the powers herein stated... and to do every other act or thing incidental, pertaining to, growing out of, or connected with the aforesaid purposes, objects or powers, or any part thereof." Hence, suspending the e-sabong licenses is pursuant to its mandate of minimizing if not eradicating the evils, malpractices and corruptions associated with gambling.

Contrary to what was said last hearing, there is nothing in PAGCOR's charter requiring them to seek authorization from the President for any action to proceed. While Section 7(e) of their charter gives authority to the President to direct and authorize the performance of other functions or duties, it does not mean that PAGCOR is not allowed to do anything without the President's permission. I believe PAGCOR is using the President as an excuse to delay that decision.

Nevertheless, the suspension of the licenses of e-sabong operators and the e-sabong franchise proceedings will allow us to concentrate on the resolution of the cases while ensuring that all stakeholders are on board. Let's focus first on what's urgent, kung anong mas importante sa ngayon--at ito ay ang maiuwi ang mga nawawala sa kanilang mga pamilya at panagutin ang may sala sa mga pagdukot na ito.

This also gives us more time to study the issue of e-sabong regulation with the intention of hopefully creating a gambling law that is not only leveraged on government revenue generation and regulation but also one which is conscious of and responsive to the social costs of gambling to the Filipinos. ... Poe: Baka lang makatulong ito sa chairperson ng PAGCOR. Ako rin po ay naging chairperson ng isang ahensya noon--ito ay ang MTRCB. Ngayon, meron po talagang kapangyarihan ang MTRCB, kapag nakita naming nagkaroon ng violation ang isang network, hindi na namin hinihintay na magkaroon ng go-signal ang Malacañang sapagkat ito po ay isang Presidential Decree na nagsasabi na 'yung opinyon namin kung sa tingin namin ay nakakasama sa mga manonood, pwede naming kaagad suspindihin. Tama ang sinabi ni Senator Sotto, hindi na kailangang dumaan pa sa proseso. Kaya nga on the one hand, Ms. Domingo, sinasabi ninyo that the President recognizes your power. On the other hand, sinasabi ninyo, 'Kailangan pa naming hintayin si Presidente.' So gusto ko lang pong balikan kasi itong binabanggit ninyo na P600 million per month revenue and about P7 billion per year, saan po napupunta ang perang 'yan?

PAGCOR Chair Andrea Domingo: Ang kalahati po n'yan napupunta sa national treasury directly at ang iba po ay napupunta sa PSC. Mayroon pong mandatory contribution ang PAGCOR na 70 percent ng aming income ay napupunta uli sa gobyerno.

Poe: So ito po ay natanggap naman, well kung 'yung last year sabi ninyo P400 million, ito ay natatanggap mismo ng Treasury?

Domingo: Remitted po yan monthly at under auditing po 'yan.

Poe: Alam ninyo itong sinasabi nating suspindihin, mayroon din kasing magiging leksyon ito sa mga nabigyan ng prangkisa. Kapag nakita nilang umaabuso na ang kanilang operasyon na maaaring suspindihin sila, mag-iingat 'yan sa mga darating na panahon na huwag magkaroon ng ganitong uri ng pamamalakad sa kanila. Ito ay leksyon din sa kanila...

Domingo: Para po sa sinasabi ni Sen. Grace Poe, pagkatapos po ng hearing na ito, pupunta ako sa Malacañang. At the very least, I will meet with the Executive Secretary para malaman ko na rin po ang sense ni Presidente at kapag po sinabi ni Presidente na suspindihin at magkakaroon na ako ng proteksyon--magreretire na po kasi ako, ayokong magkaroon ng utang na bilyon-bilyon--kapag sinabi ng Presidente isuspinde mo, isususpinde po namin.

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