Two lawmakers strongly expressed their opposition on Wednesday over the “swift” grant of legislative franchise to e-sabong operators amid what they described as online gambling-related suicides.Deputy Speaker Bro. Eddie Villanueva lamented the non-livestreaming of a committee hearing on an e-sabong bill “denying the public the chance to further scrutinize the measure.”The CIBAC party-list representative revealed that his office has so far received four reports of online gambling-related suicide—two from Bulacan and two from Pampanga. The suicide victims were reportedly deep in debt and experienced distress because of their gambling losses.“CIBAC party-list [have] received reports of identifiable individuals who committed suicide because of their gambling troubles. They were not from rich families. They were common Filipinos who got hooked on e-sabong because of the game’s addictive allure. Today, they have been reduced to cautionary tales of what gambling actually does to a nation. Instead of promoting prosperity, gambling destroys lives, families, and communities,” he said in a statement.“The effects of gambling and addiction to it are not only indisputably adverse but are also empirically established,” Villanueva said. “In actuality, the fiscal benefits or gains that our government could have from allowing and taxing e-sabong is just a drop in the bucket and pale in comparison to the social costs that it will bring to our people,” the lawmaker pointed out.The bill in question is House Bill 10204, which will grant Visayas Cockers Club Inc. franchise to operate offsite betting activities such as e-sabong. Villanueva lamented that a similar franchise bill for another e-sabong operator had previously been passed by the House “haphazardly” sans “ rigorous public scrutiny,” and is now awaiting passage in the Senate.Fearing the apparent mushrooming of e-sabong operators, Villanueva presented a University of Chicago National Opinion Research Center report indicating that “the availability of a casino within 50 miles roughly doubles the prevalence of problem and pathological gamblers.”“Given the risks of increasing accessibility to all kinds of persons, including minors, and a high chance of being addicted to it, should not our consciences be troubled if we allow and even encourage e-sabong to thrive in our country under our watch?” he asked.Villanueva also questioned the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation for its seeming double standards or lack of standard as to the government’s determination of which kinds and modes of gambling should be legalized.He also questioned its lack of empirical data on expected revenues from e-sabong and how they compare to revenues government could earn should gamblers spend their money on other taxable goods and services instead.“If government is expecting billions of revenues from e-sabong, does it not mean that we are making our people shell out trillions or more amount of money which they should have used in other more productive economically beneficial consumption or spending? After all, such same amount of money should have been injected in the economy and may even produce revenues for the government albeit in other forms, such as VAT and excise taxes,” he said.Former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, meanwhile, said he hopes the lower chamber will not “railroad” a second bill granting a franchise to another company to operate online cockfighting in the country.In a letter to Majority Floor Leader Ferdinand Martin Romualdez on September 28, 2021, Cayetano asked that he be informed if the bill granting the franchise to Visayas Cockers Club Inc. would be taken up before the adjournment of Congress on Thursday, September 30.“It is my fervent request that this will not be the case as it deprives the members [of the House] of the opportunity to raise questions on a bill of transcendental importance that must be discussed due to the destructive effect it has on our society,” Cayetano told Romualdez.“Members of the House of Representatives are entitled to due notice of the matters that will be taken up during the plenary session. This is important to allow the members to study the proposed measure, prepare questions for interpellation, and formulate amendments, if necessary,” he added.Cayetano asked that House members be given a day’s notice before interpellations and debate on the measure that are scheduled for plenary deliberations.“This is also to prevent delays in the discussion to ensure that the resource persons we requested to invite are present and that the documents we requested are provided—especially on the bill that I am pertaining to,” he said.The first e-sabong franchise was granted to Lucky 8 Star Quest Inc. on September 13, 2021.Cayetano noted that it took the House a mere day to move the measure from Committee Recommendation, inclusion in the Order of Business, Period of Sponsorship, and finally to Approval on Second Reading.“It is imperative that there will be an opportunity to deliberate on this measure and it will not be ‘railroaded,’” he said.