FIRING LINE: Last say on e-sabong

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By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

For once in too seldom a time, the Catholic Church and President Duterte are in agreement – and, perhaps, for the last time – when the Chief Executive ordered an end to electronic cockfighting or “e-sabong” in the country.

The principles of the church and the state of Duterte’s mind cannot be any farther apart as Heaven and Hell. No one points that out any better than Digong himself, even as a joke, telling his supporters at a recent campaign rally in Cainta, Rizal that when they die, they shall join him in hell.

“We won’t be accepted in heaven. Let’s be frank,” Duterte told his supporters. “So I will just bring you to hell and do not be afraid. I will wait for you there. We will stay together there.”

Drawing laughter from his adoring crowd, the President continues: “When I die, and you die at the same time, we’ll have a parade. We’ll go to Satan’s throne. And in front of you, I will slap that (cursing) Satan and cut off his tail. We’ll turn it into balbacua (stew). And then we’ll drink. Don’t be afraid of Satan… don’t worry. We’ll soon take over. If there’s an election there, we’ll surely win!”

It would seem that no other leader of a country has mouthed such abomination to the Catholic Church, previously cursing its priests and bishops and even the Pope so many times over as if courting excommunication 70 times seven!

In contrast, we now see a meek and kind Church, humbly expressing support for his good decision to stop e-sabong operations and lauding his deed as a show of concern for the families and individuals negatively affected by online gambling.

In the words of Bishop Marcelino Antonio Maralit, who chairs the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Episcopal Commission on Social Communication: “It means that he (Duterte) saw not only the so-called financial benefits but also the many negative effects it (e-sabong) has on the people who play it.”

Earlier, Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año gave insight into Duterte’s decision, saying “the most compelling reason here is addiction.” He said Duterte abhorred the fact that people were gambling away their income and family savings and even mortgaging their property to place bets.

As the Church has prayed for, we only hope that this government policy sticks. Duterte, perhaps in a bid to save his soul, made the right decision to protect the moral fiber of families from the damaging threats of gambling addiction, but his days in the Palace are numbered.

What’s worrisome is that the biggest boss of the e-sabong industry, Charlie “Atong” Ang, is confident in looking forward to further developments as if assured of e-sabong’s return. “Do not worry,” Ang said in Filipino in his video message to breeders and operators of off-cockpit betting stations (OCBS). “Just stand by while correct policies regarding this are being fixed.”

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