Palace gives PNP, NBI 30 days to probe missing ‘sabungeros’

Human Rights

Malacañang has directed the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct a thorough investigation on the disappearance of 31 “sabungeros” (cockfighting enthusiasts).

This was stated in a March 8 memorandum signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and addressed to Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) chairperson and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Andrea Domingo.

Medialdea directed the PNP and NBI to “submit its findings to the Office of the President and the Department of Justice (DOJ) within 30 days from the issuance of this order.”

He also directed Pagcor to conduct an investigation for any violations of its e-sabong licensees under their existing terms of agreement and to ensure compliance with the security and surveillance requirements under its regulatory framework for e-sabong off-cockpit betting stations, particularly the installation of CCTV systems in e-sabong gaming sites among others.

Medialdea said the operations of e-sabong licensees not being investigated may continue.

“Unless otherwise directed, the operations of e-sabong licensees must remain unaffected, pending the result of the investigations,” the memo read.

The Palace memorandum was in response to Senate Resolution 996 which urged to suspend the operations and licenses of e-sabong (online cockfighting) until cases of the 31 sabungeros have been resolved.

Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, the chairperson of the Senate Public Order and Dangerous Drugs Committee, earlier said he would have stopped e-sabong had he been the president.

Dela Rosa previously campaigned for the presidency as the standard-bearer of the ruling Partido Demokratikong Pilipino (PDP-Laban) party but later withdrew.

Pagcor, for its part, thumbed down the suspension of e-sabong operations, noting that Pagcor might be held liable if it is done without a legal basis.

The Senate panel is currently conducting a series of hearings on eight incidents of abduction involving 31 people that occurred between April 2021 and January this year. The abductions were allegedly linked to the victims’ involvement in e-sabong.

Several of the missing persons had attended cockpits managed by businessman and former gaming consultant Charlie “Atong” Ang.

Charges readied

The PNP, meanwhile, said it is set to file “anytime this week” charges of kidnapping and serious illegal detention complaints against six security personnel of the Manila Arena over six missing cockfighting enthusiasts.

In a radio interview Wednesday, PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) has a witness who confirmed the involvement of these personnel in the incident.

The complaints are for the disappearance of victims identified as Marlon Baccay, James Baccay, Mark Joseph Velasco, Rondel Cristorum, Rowel Gomez, and John Claude Inonog at the Manila Arena on January 13.

“Sa ngayon, limited pa lang po doon sa mga positively identified ng ating witness na siyang kumuha doon sa mga sabungero at isinakay doon sa van. Ngayon kung sino po ‘yung mga mastermind, yun pa rin po ang subject ng further investigation (For now, we are only limited to those positively identified by our witness as among those who took the cockfighting enthusiasts and forced them into riding the van. As for the mastermind, that it is still the subject of our further investigation),” Fajardo said.

She added that the witness personally saw the incident, an allegation which the security personnel denied.

“Nag-appear na po ‘yung ilan sa kanila dahil tumugon po sila sa subpoena na ipinadala. Dineny po nila ung kanilang participation (Some of them have already appeared and responded to the subpoena sent to them. They denied any participation),” she said.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, meanwhile, said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) now has a lead on the case of the missing cockfighting enthusiasts.

He, however, said the NBI did not give any further details.

“I am confident that the NBI and the PNP will soon come up with positive results. It is improbable that 34 persons in strikingly similar situations would disappear without a trace,” Guevarra said.

Source: Philippines News Agency