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DILG must go after LGU officials tolerating ‘Sabong’ amid pandemic

February 12, 2022 Alfred P. Dalizon 449 views

Alfred DalizonAMID the continuing effort of a PNP Special Investigation Task Group to solve the mystery of at least 26 ‘sabungeros’ who mysteriously disappeared after going to their favorite cockpits in Manila and nearby provinces, another challenge confronting the police force is how to stop the presence of ‘tupadas’ across the country which, of course are super-spreader events.

The problem can’t be solved by the police alone since it is a fact that without the cooperation of officials from the different local government units particularly mayors and barangay authorities, ‘sabong,’ legal or illegal will continue to persist as it remains a favorite pastime of many Filipinos with or without the pandemic.

On Sunday last week, 56 cockfighting afficionados, three of them local barangay officials were apprehended by agents of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group inside a compound in Pandacan, Manila where illegal ‘tupada’ games are being held.

On the same day, at least 200 people led by Mayor Jovencio Mayor Jr. of Ferrol, Romblon were also apprehended inside a local cockfighting arena which was found to be operating despite the COVID Alert Lever 3 status raised in the province.

‘Sabong’ remains in the blood of many rich or poor nowadays. In fact, the sport is considered to be the country’s national sport second to basketball, its history dating back some 6,000 years ago. The game has been a part of life among many Filipinos who consider it as a pure entertainment, that some poor Pinoys are known to be saving money for a ‘sabong’ game while complaining they don’t have food on the table or milk for their babies.

However, the same cannot be said under the new normal where people are required to practice physical distancing and wear face masks at all times. I can’t imagine ‘sabungeros’ shouting ‘pula, puti’ while wearing face masks or a meter or two away from each other. The fact remains that ‘sabungans’ and ‘tupadas’ in the streets are always jampacked, with people rubbing elbows or jostling against each other while shouting at the top of their voices just for the thrill of it.

‘Sabong’ which is legal in the country has become a booming billion-dollar industry that has captured even the heart of other nations, particularly now that there’s an E-Sabong or the online/remote or off-site wagering/betting on live cockfighting matches streamed live under PAGCOR supervision. Many OFWs abroad and even Filipinos here, some policemen included in fact have been addicted to E-Sabong.

The issue right now is the continuing proliferation of ‘sabong’ or ‘tupada’ events nationwide despite the effort of the PNP leadership headed by General Dionards Carlos to arrest these illegal games. Amid the new normal, ‘sabungeros’ from different walks of life—moneyed businessmen, government officials, law enforcement agents, other rich and famous as well as ordinary farmers, fishermen, construction workers and the likes continue to play the game.

I was told by CIDG National Capital Region Field Unit chief, Colonel Glenn Silvio that the 56 ‘sabungeros’ they apprehended inside the Baj Softdrinks Dealer compound at no. 2145 Beata Street in Pandacan include Bgy. 846 chairman Allan Boado; Bgy. 887 chairman Antonio Bautista and Bgy. 843 ‘kagawad’ Albino Aguirre.

Boado turned out to be the owner of the compound where the ‘tupada’ games are being regularly held while Bautista and Aguirre are regular ‘bettors/sabungeros.’ Recovered during the raid were 12 live and three dead ‘panabong,’ gaffs and their paraphernalia as well as Texas’ cages and cock boosters and performance enhancers. As it has always been the same, the raid triggered a melee as the ‘sabungeros’ tried to escape apprehension and even resisted arrest.

The joke going around in Manila is that the 56 were lucky since they were merely apprehend and did not disappear without any trace just like in the cases of the missing ‘sabungeros.’

In Ferrol, Romblon, local policemen apprehended at least 200 people led by the local mayor inside a local cockfighting arena which was found to be operating despite the COVID Alert Lever 3 status raised in the province.

Gen. Carlos said that the Tubigon Square Garden was raided following reports that cockfighting is being held in the establishment in full violation of COVID Alert Level 3 rules in Romblon that prohibits the game in clear violation of IATF Resolution No. 159-A, Series of 2022 and Presidential Decree 449 or the Cockfighting Law of 1974 as amended by Presidential Decree 1602.

“It is unfortunate that an elected official was among the arrested violators but we are just acting on reports with careful monitoring. It will be up for the prosecutor to appreciate the evidence,” Gen. Carlos said following the raid which led in the confiscation of a sizeable amount of cash bets, gambling paraphernalia as well as several dead and live fighting cocks with attached gaffs.

Those two raids are proof that local government authorities themselves are tolerating illegal ‘sabong’ in their areas and are themselves violating physical distancing rules imposed by the government to help curb down the further spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus.

Presidential Decree 1602 states that any barangay official in whose jurisdiction such gambling house is found and which house has the reputation of a gambling place shall suffer the penalty of prision correccional in its medium period and a fine ranging from P500 to P2,000 and temporary absolute disqualification from holding public office.

Will PD 1602 be applied to the LGU officials arrested last week? I’m posing the question as I learned that the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases has permitted the operation of cockpits and the resumption of traditional cockfighting under Alert Level 2 but subject to the discretion of the LGUs.

The IATF in fact set specific protocols for cockpit operators to ensure the safety of those who will go to their establishments. They include the following: maximum of 50-percent venue capacity for fully vaccinated individuals as well as on-site workers/employees of these establishments must be fully COVID-19 immunized.

Also, the IATF said that there should be cashless betting and use of technology-based platform; and minimum public health standards and technology-based betting shall be strictly enforced by the LGU where traditional cockfighting will be conducted, and monitored by the Department of the Interior and Local Government which has supervision over LGUs and the police force.

However, as I have pointed out, these rules and regulations are next to impossible to be enforced in ‘tupada’ events being held in the middle of the streets, basketball courts and private compounds just like that in Pandacan, Manila.

What the PNP needs to be successful in its effort to stop all forms of illegal gambling activities including ‘tupada’ all over the country amid the ‘No-Take Policy’ of Gen. Carlos, is the full cooperation of LGU officials.

It should be made clear that all government officials and employees are covered by the code of conduct and ethical standards and if all government workers have been banned by President Duterte from going to PAGCOR-run casinos to gamble, they should also be banned from going to ‘sabungans.’

The PNP has made this a policy which has resulted in the arrest of dozens of policemen in cockpit arenas and ‘tupadas.’ LGU authorities should not be exempted from a similar DILG policy, if there is any. Calling the attention of DILG Secretary Ed Año here.