Bato suspects rogue cops’ involvement in e-sabong abductions

Senator and former top cop Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa sees the potential involvement of rogue policemen and former uniformed personnel in the disappearances of more than 30 cockfight players and enthusiasts over the past year.

“Sa nakita natin very bold and daring yung ginagawa nilang operation at yung kanilang kilos ay tactically masasabing may training na pinagdaanan itong mga taong ito,” Dela Rosa said in an online media interview on Friday.

[Translation: From what we’ve seen the operations were very bold and daring and the movements of those behind went through training.]

“Binigyan ko lang ng diin yan sa harap ng liderato ng ating PNP (Philippine National Police) para to check on their people na siguruhin ninyong walang maiinvolve dito na mga rogue cops, or mga dismissed or retired na police o sundalo o military,” he added.

[Translation: I just emphasized that in front of the PNP leadership to check on their people to ensure that rogue cops, or dismissed or retired policemen and military men will not get involved here.]

During the nine-hour hearing of Dela Rosa’s committee on public order and dangerous drugs on Thursday, police presented six cases where a total of 31 individuals were allegedly abducted from three cockpits. The most recent case, dated January 13, involved the disappearance of six people from the Manila Arena while four others were last seen at the United Association of Cockpit Owners and Operators of the Philippines in Sta. Cruz, Laguna.

In three separate incidents last year, 15 others disappeared from the same arena in Laguna. The sixth case happened at the Royal Octadome in Lipa City Batangas on January 6, where six people went missing.

“Reality hurts but the reality is that most likely patay na itong mga taong ito kung ganoon kahaba (they are dead if they’ve been missing for that long),” Dela Rosa said. “We are hoping for the best, expecting for the worst.”

Police identified game fixing as a possible motive for the abductions.

Subpoena for Ang

All three cockpits where people went missing had no security cameras, the hearing revealed. The arenas are operated by online sabong firm Lucky 8 Star Quest, Inc. which is owned by gaming tycoon Charlie “Atong” Ang.

Dela Rosa said Ang was invited to attend the hearing, but he begged off due to health reasons. He will again be subpoenaed for the resumption of the probe on March 3.

“Tumawag siya doon sa committee secretary ko sabi daw ni Atong Ang na hopefully kung okay na yung health niya kung meron pang succeeding hearings makakarating daw siya so we expect na makarating siya,” Dela Rosa said.

[Translation: He called my committee secretary, who said Atong Ang committed to attend the succeeding hearings if his health improves so we expect him to come.]

During the first hearing on Thursday, the sister of missing e-sabong agent Ricardo “Jonjon” Lasco, Jr. showed a video of Ang allegedly threatening e-sabong agents who illegally solicit bets through websites that “clone” his company’s legitimate site.

Family members said armed men took Lasco from their house in San Pablo, Laguna on August 30, 2021.

Lawyer Angelo Niño Santos, president of Ang’s Lucky 8 Star Quest Inc., said it was “not a threat” but a reminder, and that they only use legal means to deal with erring agents. CNN Philippines has also reached out to Ang.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation agreed with senators that all e-sabong operations must be suspended while the investigations are ongoing, but the regulator said it needs the approval of Malacañang. The Senate committee on public order will issue a resolution calling for the suspension. It will be sent to President Rodrigo Duterte once signed by committee members and the Senate leadership, Dela Rosa said.

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