ABSOLUTELY, cockfighting or sabong” reigns supreme in the Philippines.In Negros Occidental where the fighting cock industry remains the second largest next to sugar, sabong is life!But sabong aficionados and (fighting cock) breeders here were hit, too, by the current coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic. Legitimate cockpit arenas were closed. Local government units (LGUs) refrained from issuing permit for cockfighting in the barangays to avoid spread of the virus.Tari-tari or illegal cockfighting then thrived in the province.In February, however, electronic sabong or e-sabong, which was illegally existing in the digital platform for around a decade already, had been legalized in the country. House Bill (HB ) Nos. 8910 and 8065 and Senate Bill No. 2045 paved the way to e-sabong legalization.NegOcc’s 2nd District’s Rep. Leo Rafael Cueva was among the principal authors for HB 8910.Purposefulness of these three measures:* to earn at least P1 billion in tax revenue this 2021 to be used by the government in the COVID-19 pandemic response* to help the country rise from the quicksand of “economic ruin” amid the pandemicEconomically speaking, both rationales are valid.So three months after, e-sabong becomes a “phenomenon” in Negros. The localities of Talisay, La Carlota, Murcia and San Enrique were reportedly hosting e-sabong from time-to-time.Anywhere in Negros now, e-sabong is a well-followed event not just by men but women and kids, too. Thus, critically-minded Negrenses have started talking about the impact(s) of e-sabong in the family and community.It has started to penetrate everyone’s living room where the entire family, including minors, can access through smart TVs or cellphones as long as they have strong and speedy internet access.And when the father places a bet, the entire family cheers.E-sabong is likened, too, to Mobile Legend (ML), the famous computer game among teenagers. Here, betting (done through GCash) is quite affordable – for as low as P50 only.Let’s be cautious, however, since e-sabong ain’t a sport like boxing, basketball or football. It’s neither a beauty pageant nor a variety show. It solicits bets, ergo, it is perceived as gambling in this digital era.The Bible remains silent about gambling being a sin or not. But Balanga Bishop Ruperto Santos, in previous TV interviews, underscored that e-sabong will never be blessing to the country.“It will only be a source of problems in the community and division in the family,” the good bishop added.It reminds me of Gordon B. Hinkley, world’s famous religious leader and author. Hinkley said, “Whether gambling’s legal or illegal, still it undermines the moral fiber of society.”“It’s also a sure way of getting something for nothing,” quoted Wilson Mizner, world-renowned playwright.Alarmed by this newest “craze” in town, commented Celia Flor, “It is actually easy money for the government…But they should have given more thought to measures restricting betting.”Enunciated Flor: “It may help the economy, but it may ruin the social fabric.”And there should be better ways to increase government income than just gambling, capped Flor, a distinguished women advocate in the country.Surprisingly, Mari June Pavillar-Castro, another vocal women advocate-turned-Capitol Consultant on Gender Advocacy and Development (GAD), opted to remain silent on the issue.“Maybe the (sabong) enthusiasts will say it’s safer that the face-to-face sabong,” Castro’s safest note, referring to the current spike of COVID-19 cases in the province.Flor and Castro are both founding members of Development Action for Women Networking (DAWN) Foundation in Negros, a group that advances women’s and children’s causes.Lawyer Jocelle Batapa-Sigue, Bacolod’s well-known Information Technology (IT) and women advocate, isn’t familiar yet about e-sabong.It’s unbelievable to note, however, that Batapa-Sigue, a self-confessed tech-savvy attorney, remains “unaware” about e-sabong since the latter uses the digital platform.She confided that she’s averse to all forms of gambling, though she respects people who engage in it.Asked for his “inestimable” wisdom about e-sabong hullabaloo, Vice Gov. Jeffrey Ferrer uttered, “It’s hard to legislate out of something which is legal already.”As to the report that even mothers and children are also placing bets, he stressed: “It’s hard to block one’s freedom.”“We already have a lot of legislative materials – both in national and local levels protecting our women and youth, so I think no need for another one just because of this e-sabong.”“Maybe we’ll (just) protect our women and children from illegal, but not from something legal,” he quipped.Suggested Ferrer: Maybe part of taxes from e-sabong can be used to help finance other programs and projects (also) aimed at protecting women and youth.The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) is the government body authorized to issue franchise for e-sabong. The local government units’ task is simply confined on issuing business permit to operate cockpit arena(s) in their respective locality.But (latest) talks milling around said that among the local incorporators or financiers of e-sabong in Negros were some incumbent local officials in the province.Who are they?I refuse to dwell yet on their identities until proof (s) are available on hand. But if it’s true, this is “disquieting”. And hope not because their moral ascendancy will be put in question later.Election can be smelled now and e-sabong can be a potent issue/propaganda against anyone whose aim is just for profit without minding the “evils” of gambling.Worse is if proceeds from e-sabong are meant to finance someone’s re-election bid. Though people are quite “enterprising” during election time, moral issues matter still. Thus, they must be reminded by this ferocious line about gambling that, “In a bet, there is a fool and a thief.”With this, if the current capitol leadership will do nothing to avert the proliferation of this e-sabong, it ain’t farfetched that some Negros politicos will turn as the next “e-thieves” in the province sooner.