Press Release
March 4, 2022

DOJ, PAGCOR usurp Congress' authority over e-sabong - Tolentino

MANILA - Senator Francis 'Tol' N. Tolentino took a swipe on the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) for supposedly usurping the authority of Congress over online sabong operations in the country.

According to Tolentino, the current online sabong fiasco should be blamed on the DOJ's 'erroneous interpretation of the law' following a separate legal opinion issued by the agency on January 28, 2021, and became the basis of PAGCOR for issuing licenses to e-sabong operators.

Tolentino stressed that not a single provision stated under Presidential Decree No. 1869 and as amended by Republic Act No. 9487 which empowered PAGCOR to unilaterally takeover the licensing authority over online cockfighting.

"The law is what is written. Kung hindi 'yun nakasulat doon, hindi 'yun batas. Ang pwede lang po gumawa ng batas, Kongreso... hindi po DOJ," said Tolentino during Friday's inquiry of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs in connection with the mysterious disappearances of several cockfight afficionados involved in e-sabong.

Tolentino further got irked when Chief State Counsel Usec. George Ortha insisted that the DOJ 'being the Attorney General' can have its own interpretation of the law, just like what they did after issuing a separate legal opinion and is now being used by PAGCOR in granting online sabong permits.

Tolentino explained that the legal opinion issued by DOJ which became the ground of PAGCOR in issuing e-sabong licenses "is a direct usurpation of legislative powers" under Article 239 of the Revised Penal Code, noting that Congress has the sole authority over franchises.

"Don't skew your interpretation that (will) make us believe that (what) you are saying is canonical now," he added.

Aside from DOJ, the Office of the Solicitor General also issued a separate opinion in May 2018 that helped empowered PAGCOR and enable them solely to control the issuance of permits in the e-sabong industry.

The senator reiterated his last week's statement, in which he explained that e-sabong is not included in the jurisdiction of PAGCOR under PD 1869 and RA 9487.

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