The Philippines is amping up its efforts to curtail the spreading of crime associated with e-sabong, a lucrative gambling activity that was legalized just a year ago and that has already been yielding steady results for the treasury, but with an important caveat. Crime associated with the activity has been growing exponentially, ranging from kidnappings to disappearances, and some people turning to desperate measures and pawning their infants.
Law-Enforcement Abetted Crime
Now, authorities in the Philippines believe that corrupt police officers may have had something to do with the prevalence of crime in this industry. A total of 34 people has disappeared in activities related to e-sabong, among them police officers, too. Now, though, the Philippines Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) is confident that it has also found links between police forces and the kidnappers.
At least five policemen have been named in the kidnapping case of Ricardo “Jon Jon” Lasco Jr., a prominent organizer of e-sabong contests. The CIDG acted following a tip that six more people attending e-sabong events had disappearance in January. Lasco was kidnapped by a group of armed perpetrators in San Pablo City where he lived.
According to witnesses, the people detaining him said that they were members of the Bureau of investigation or NBI, an investigative unit that focuses on tackling various offenses in the Philippines, including e-sabong-related fraud and crime. CIDG said on Monday that it’s working on identifying the kidnappers and has been taking witness accounts of the incident.
The disappearances of prominent e-sabong organizers could point to fraud on a gambling level. According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the bulk of these disappearances may have to specifically do with failed attempts to convince organizers to fix games. The individuals disappearing had something to do with the activity, and were not just attendees, the media claimed.
On the other hand, the abductions may be linked to setting scores between criminal syndicates in the country. Some have pointed to the Philippine authorities’ patchy record in upholding the rule of law with law enforcement actually involved in extrajudicial activities, including kidnappings and killings.
Between the Almighty Peso and Hard Place
Meanwhile, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has been reluctant to outright prohibit the activity as it has turned out to be a cash cow for the country, bringing a lot of cash in. “We don’t have money. We’re short on money,” Duterte said to members of legislation and argued that e-sabong would exist.
The only difference now is that it’s regulated. However, the president had requested from the NBI and CIDG to get involved along with other law enforcement agencies and get to the bottom of the e-sabong disappearances.