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Better late than never?

After defending e-sabong as an activity which generates millions in revenues for the government every month, President Rodrigo Duterte, whose six-year term officially ends in a couple of months, now says he is putting an end to it.

In his recorded “Talk to the People” aired Tuesday, the President said he is following the recommendation of Department of the Interior and Local Government chief Eduardo Año, who he earlier ordered to conduct a survey on the social impacts of the gambling activity on Filipinos. He said the findings confirmed what he has been hearing.

After tolerating its obvious ills to society in favor of government revenues, Duterte now believes that e-sabong works against Filipino values and impacts families negatively, as it allegedly keeps gamblers up for 24 hours.

E-sabong involves the placing of online bets during live cockfighting games. It is currently regulated by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., and according to Duterte, generates P640 million a month in revenues for the government.

The Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs has already held four hearings on the disappearances of more than 30 individuals reportedly linked to e-sabong activities. The panel issued a resolution on February 2022, urging Pagcor to suspend all the licenses of e-sabong operators until an acceptable conclusion is found with regards to the missing people. Malacañang disagreed, allowing it to continue but ordered the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police to investigate the disappearances further.

Aside from being a social ill, gambling is also a lucrative business, especially for those who have found loopholes that can be exploited. The mysterious disappearance of more than 30 individuals linked to e-sabong adds to the suspicions that it is being used as a front for illegal and more lucrative activities.

E-sabong should’ve been stopped a long time ago, as it has been obvious from the start that the social costs outweigh the financial benefits to the country. Filipinos should be thankful that President Duterte finally made the decision to end the activity for now.

Hopefully the succeeding administrations have a better appreciation of the costs and benefits of such gambling activities before allowing it to become part of our society.*

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