AN ongoing crackdown against “guerrilla” e-sabong (online cockfighting betting) operations in Central Visayas on Monday evening led to the arrest of eight persons involved in illegal gambling in Cebu City, a report to Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief, General Rodolfo S. Azurin Jr. said Tuesday.
The eight suspects were caught in the act of playing the prohibited game inside a house in Barangay Ermita, Cebu City, said Police Regional Office 7 (PRO 7) Director Brig. Gen. Roderick Augustus B. Alba.
Recovered during the operation conducted by members of the Cebu City Police Station 5 led by Maj. Kenneth Paul Albotra were P2,400 in cash bets and a computer set being used to watch “sabong” live streamed via the Internet.
The eight were taken to the local police station for filing of charges for violation of Presidential Decree (PD) 1602 or the anti-illegal gambling law in relation to Republic Act (RA) 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, said Alba, who has tapped the help of the community, local government units (LGUs) and the Church in reporting the presence of underground e-sabong operations in the region.
Alba said he had ordered a massive crackdown against underground e-sabong and other illegal gambling activities in Central Visayas amid a directive from the PNP chief.
“We shall continue our massive campaign against e-sabong and all forms of illegal gambling. I have directed all our units to intensify their intelligence gathering on e-sabong operations and to immediately conduct anti-illegal gambling operations,” the official said.
Alba said he had ordered “intelligence-driven” operations to determine if cockpit arenas in the region are being utilized for illegal activity.
As ordered by the PRO 7 director, all concerned police units have been instructed to inspect these establishments to prevent e-sabong activities regularly.
He said that the non-existence of e-sabong activities in the region will be supported by videos/pictures taken by concerned police units. He also instructed his men to fully coordinate with the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) headed by Brig. Gen. Ronald O. Lee and the Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG) headed by Brig. Gen. Joel B. Doria their operations, particularly in monitoring links/sites being utilized by operators of the underground e-sabong operations.
On Monday, Azurin ordered a crackdown on all “guerrilla e-sabong operations,” which are believed to have sprouted in some parts of the country, particularly in the Visayas region amid the termination of all online cockfighting operations in the country last May amid its social cost to Filipinos.
The top cop ordered all 17 police regional and provincial offices, the PNP Directorate for Intelligence, the PNP-CIDG, and the Intelligence Group (IG) headed by Brig. Gen. Andrew D. Cayad to identify the operators of these clandestine online sabong operations and see to it that they will be arrested and charged in court.
Specifically, Azurin ordered an intensified campaign against guerrilla e-sabong operations in Central Visayas and other nearby regions and ordered concerned police commanders to stop the illegal activity within one week.
The PNP chief, Journal Group sources said, has warned that he will order the administrative relief of regional and provincial CIDG and IG chiefs and city and provincial intelligence chiefs if they “fail” to do their job.
Journal Group sources said that a “politician” is believed to be involved in guerrilla e-sabong operations in the Visayas region, although they refused to identify him at the moment.
Azurin said he had ordered the crackdown on illegal e-sabong operations amid complaints that “the lives of countless Filipinos have gone astray” after they got addicted to the online cockfighting games.
“Mga biktima nito, even those working abroad ay nalululong sa online sabong na ito. We even have recorded cases abroad, apparently syndicated operations ito,” he said.
The PNP chief said they have monitored some personalities behind the illegal games and thus have asked the CIDG to go after them.
“Kailangan talaga na mapatigil ang mga illegal online games na ito at afftected talaga lalo na yung mga mahihirap. Parang walang mga konsensiya ang mga nagpapaaandar nito kaya dapat talagang mapatigil na ang kanilang illegal activities, otherwise magiging source ng crime ito dahil magkakakautang-utang ang mga biktima,” the official said.
However, Azurin called on the full support of the public in their effort to stop the illegal activity. “Mas madali sanang mapapatigil ang mga ito kung sasabihin sa amin ng mga tao kung saan sila nag-o-operate. Thus we are calling for the participation of everybody, including the media here,” he said.
The Marcos administration previously said that it is “not keen” on tapping e-sabong for revenues and is even willing to let go of it “if it will compromise the value of the Filipino family.”
Shortly before he left Malacañang Palace last May, then President Rodrigo R. Duterte ordered the termination of e-sabong operations in the country following a recommendation from then Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo M. Año whom he tasked to do a “survey” on the social costs of online cockfighting.
Duterte’s sudden decision to stop online cockfighting operations is believed to have prompted operators of the illegal games and their other workers to go “underground” and transfer from one place to another.
Officials said other operators of the e-games and their employees were known to have operated illegally after Duterte’s directive to earn money for their families.
The former Duterte administration refused to suspend e-sabong because of the revenues it generated for the government, particularly during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. or PAGCOR earlier estimated the revenues from online cockfighting averaged P400 million monthly last year and P640 million a month since January 2022.
“E-sabong” gained popularity during the pandemic as Filipino gamblers only needed to place bets using their mobile phones. However, the disappearance of at least 34 people allegedly linked to online cockfighting sparked a Senate investigation and prompted calls for its suspension.