MEMBERS of the Philippine National Police and the Joint Task Force COVID Shield yesterday were ordered to constantly monitor the more than 1,200 cockfighting arenas in the country for possible illegal operations including the banned online ‘sabong,’ Lieutenant General Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar said.
The official said that in coordination with PNP chief, General Camilo Pancratius P. Cascolan, all 17 police regional commanders were told to wait for the cockfighting guidelines to be released by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
Eleazar said that while the IAFT-MEID has already approved the operation of licensed cockpits and the conduct of cockfighting activities in areas under the Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) in its 79th Meeting, any other operation is still illegal unless a guideline is already issued.
The Joint Task Force COVID Shield commander issued the instruction amid reports of the rampant cockfighting operations in various areas in the country that are being live-streamed for the purpose of ‘e-sabong’ or online cockfighting operation.
“We have been receiving reports about online sabong and we would like to remind the public that this kind of operation is illegal. We urge the operators and the players to wait for additional time for the release of the IATF Guideline on cockfighting operation before engaging in any activity,” he said.
The cockfighting operation is a multi-billion-peso industry in the Philippines and a source of income for the government through taxes.
However, all cockfighting operations across the country were prohibited since March 17 this year due to the threat of the Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19). The prohibition still applies despite the relaxation of community quarantine rules in a bid to partially re-open the economy.
Lt. Gen. Eleazar said the approval of the IATF was based on the recommendation of the cockfighting industry to include their operations in the list of industries that should be allowed to reopen to revive the economy, subject to compliance to the quarantine protocols.
The official said that in view of this, all police commanders have been ordered to intensify intelligence-gathering and coordination especially with barangay officials for illegal tupada operations that were confirmed with various successful operations that include that in Batangas wherein a town councilor, a former vice mayor and a barangay captain were among those arrested.
“We are also appealing to the public to report to tupada and online sabong operations in order to immediately act on them. These kinds of activities invite mass gathering which is in violation of our quarantine protocols,” Eleazar said.
He said they could send any information to the Facebook account of the JTF COVID Shield, COVID Shield, assuring a quick response.
The public could also reach the PNP and the JTF COVID Shield through the following hotlines: PNP Helpline 16677, 0998-849-0013 for Smart users, 0917-538-2495 for Globe users and PNP-Highway Patrol Group Hotline 0926-225-5474.
Aside from cockfighting operations, also allowed to operate are beach volleyball tournaments under the ‘sports bubble concept’ and operations of off-track horse betting under the General Community Quarantine or lower community quarantine status.