Philippines Illegal Gambling, e-Sabong Websites Become Take-Down Targets

Posted on: December 5, 2023, 10:23h. 

Last updated on: December 9, 2023, 03:11h.

Authorities in the Philippines are intensifying efforts to dismantle illegal gambling and e-sabong (online betting on cockfights) websites. With a surge in online gambling platforms, these sites are prime targets for authorities. But their numbers show the difficult task that lies ahead.

The Philippines flag flying on a pole on a sunny day
The Philippines flag flying on a pole on a sunny day. The country continues to combat illegal gambling websites. (Image: Wikipedia)

Globe Telecom Inc., a major telecom company, has recorded a significant surge in the number of malicious websites linked to illegal gambling, child pornography, and online piracy. The company has intensified its efforts to block the sites in response to this trend.

According to a Globe Telecom statement, the company successfully blocked a record-breaking 404,730 websites and links containing illicit content between January and September. This marks a substantial increase of 45% compared to the 278,555 sites thwarted during the same period in 2022.

This is also more than the 401,487 sites that Globe Telecom blocked for hosting illicit content throughout last year. That figure was 18 times higher than the 22,371 websites shut down a year earlier.

To combat this rising threat, Globe has invested millions of dollars in technology to help it find and block illicit or questionable sites and links. This initiative aligns with the company’s campaign against online sexual abuse and exploitation of children (OSAEC).

The efforts comply with the Philippines’ Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009, which mandates ISPs to use any legal means necessary to prevent access to child pornography content. The Philippines’ Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center recently revealed that the country ranks second globally regarding OSAEC.

e-Sabong Still an Issue

A ban on e-sabong in the Philippines has done little to prevent the operation of sites specializing in the activity. The Philippine National Police (PNP) and other organizations are working to address that through a separate measure.

Under Executive Order (EO) No. 9 from December of last year, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) ordered ISPs to block more than 2,400 websites catering to online cockfighting. Despite enforcing the EO, Brigadier General Sidney Hernia, director of the PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG), revealed that the PNP has identified 2,817 websites engaged in e-sabong since then.

The CIDG operatives and other police units on the ground are actively locating various studios used by online cockfight betting operators. These proactive measures align with Globe Telecom’s commitment to ensuring a secure online landscape and complying with legal mandates to safeguard against the proliferation of harmful and illegal content.

Lawmakers are scrutinizing the authority to order telecoms to block e-sabong websites. While there have been laws, like EO No. 9, that make betting on the fights illegal, there has yet to be a law that specifically authorizes the PNP or any other entity to order telecoms to block the sites.

This hasn’t stopped the NTC from acting, but lawmakers must now close the loophole. They’ll have to create legislation to give the agency the legal authority to respond to take-down notices if they want to avoid the legal battles that lie ahead.