The incoming head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines warned against moves in Congress to legalize “e-sabong,” the online betting on live cockfighting matches.
“The legalization of ‘e-sabong’ has been one of the most disastrous things ever allowed by the government,” said Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan in a statement posted on social media.
He denounced the proposal “in the context of the pandemic that has locked down the elderly, the vulnerable, and the children for too long.”
“It is easy to argue and say, what’s the big deal?” said the prelate, adding that people would say all forms of gambling “are just as addictive anyway.”
“It’s just about making a game of chance called ‘sabong’ available online, and in a manner that generates funds for the government, right?” he said.
“Wrong,” said the Bishop David. “Well, it is big deal! Because this government says it cares about the future of young people and wants to save them from addiction,” he said.
“Anyone who associates addiction only with drugs has not really understood the nature of addiction as a mental health issue,” said the bishop, a vocal critic of the government’s bloody “war on drugs” that killed thousands of suspected drug users and peddlers since 2016.
“Real ‘sabong’ is addictive enough,” he said. “‘E-sabong’ is way much worse because it is available online,” said the bishop.
He said the the traditional “sabong” is at least available only for the kind of players who would go physically to a cockfighting arena, which is a very limited space, and usually for adults only.
“This ‘e-sabong,’ which, by the way, was unanimously granted a franchise by Congress, is online,” he said, adding that “it can be accessed by anyone — yes, even by kids who have gotten quite used to online activities due to the pandemic.”
Several Church leaders have earlier expressed their opposition to the proposal to legalize “e-sabong.”
In an earlier statement, Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao said online gambling is “still gambling” and legalizing it will only promote the attitude that it is all right to use much needed money to gamble.
“Even minors will delve into cockfighting,” said Bishop Patrick Daniel Parcon of Talibon in the central Philippines. “I heard that children as young as those in Grade Six go online,” he said, adding that online games are addictive.”
“Gambling money should come from excess, not to fuel the [luck] mentality that use money for rice and groceries,” said Bishop Antonietto Cabahug.
“Poverty should be solved with economic means, not gambling,” he said.
Bishop Alberto Uy of the Diocese of Tagbilaran said online “sabong” will only “wreck families, incite crimes, and corrupt society.”
“You can just imagine how many families will be seriously disturbed by this form of gambling,” he said.
In recent weeks, several legislators have been lobbying for the passage of House Bill No.10199, which proposes to grant Lucky 8 Star Quest Inc. a franchise to operate offsite and online betting activities on duly-licensed cockfighting, derbies, and other similar activities.