(File photo)

MANILA – Taguig-Pateros Representative Alan Peter Cayetano on Thursday stressed the need to permanently ban online cockfighting (e-sabong) after multiple issues were uncovered during the recently concluded hearings by the Senate on the disappearance of around 30 sabungeros (cockfight aficionados).

Cayetano said online forms of gambling make betting games available to everyone 24/7, adding that e-sabong and all other forms of internet gambling must be banned altogether.

He said Congress would need to pass another law requiring virtual wallet companies to implement a stricter “know-your-customers” policy from registration stage to usage of account.

“Imagine, how many sessions would it take for us to institutionalize all of the Committee’s recommendations to solve the whole problem? Paano kung habang ginagawa pa lang ang mga batas, may mga nawala na naman? (What would happen if more people disappear while we are still crafting the laws?)” Cayetano said in an interview.

The Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs chaired by Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa held its fourth and final hearing on 34 missing individuals who were allegedly involved in online sabong activities on Tuesday.

The Committee concluded that a law regulating the e-sabong industry must be crafted, which should include the following: limiting its operations to Sundays and legal holidays; clear delineation of powers and functions of government agencies involved in e-sabong; and strict implementation of imposition of taxes on e-sabong operators and agents.

The Committee also recommended the creation of a law establishing a reward system for persons who witness and have actual knowledge of a crime to aid law enforcement personnel in conducting investigations.

It also wants to mandate all local government units (LGUs) to include the installation of security cameras in commercial establishments, especially in all off-betting stations and gambling arenas, as a requirement for the issuance of a business permit.

Cayetano said while the Senate can forward to the concerned government agencies its recommendations on existing regulations, those that pertain specifically to e-sabong will still have to undergo a lengthy process.

“'Yung mga specific sa e-sabong kagaya ng kung kailan lang dapat pwede i-hold, ano ang role ng bawat agency, at paano dapat ang pag-tax, panibagong series of discussions pa ‘yun (The specific matters pertaining to e-sabong like when it should be held, what roles agencies play, and how to tax them, that's another series of discussions),” he said.

The Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) reported to the Senate that out of the eight cases of 34 missing persons, two have been filed against several suspects and John Does involved in incidents in Sta. Ana Arena, Manila and in San Pablo City, Laguna.

PNP-CIDG chief, Maj. Gen. Eliseo Cruz, said some allegedly involved police officers are currently under summary hearing proceedings before the PNP-Regional Internal Affairs Service (PNP-RIAS) Calabarzon for administrative cases.

Cruz said in the case of Ricardo "Jonjon" Lasco, a master agent of electronic sabong or online cockfighting who was kidnapped by 10 armed men inside his residence in San Pablo City, Laguna in August 2021, the victim’s kin and witnesses positively identified the suspects as cops formerly assigned at the Laguna Provincial Police Office based in Sta. Cruz, Laguna.

The PNP-CIDG, together with the victim’s kin and witnesses, has filed criminal complaints for kidnapping and serious illegal detention, and robbery against the five identified policemen who are now under restrictive custody at the Regional Police Office in Calabarzon.

Cruz added that brothers Darwin and Alvin Indon, who were allegedly involved in game fixing and currently detained at the Laguna Provincial Jail for violations of Republic Act 9165 (Dangerous Drugs Act), identified the same group of police officers as involved.

"In the other incidents of missing sabungeros (cockfight aficionados), the PNP-CIDG will continue to conduct an investigation to gather more pieces of evidence as well as sworn statements of credible witnesses for eventual filing of appropriate charges. To this honorable committee and to the rest of the Filipino people, rest assured that the CIDG and the Philippine National Police as a whole will continue to do our best efforts towards the resolution of these cases," Cruz said. (PNA)