AN ANTI-GRAFT group has urged President Rodrigo Duterte over the weekend to remove top officials of the Philippine Racing Commission (Philracom), alleging that the agency had committed graft and corruption that caused the government losses of hundreds of millions of pesos.
In a letter sent to the President, the Anti-Trapo Movement (ATM) said the Philracom officials must be “fired and replaced immediately” for allowing the proliferation of online sabong (cockfight) in some of the off-track betting (OTB) stations in the country.
According to ATM founder Leon Peralta, the incumbent Philracom officials “willfully ignored and betrayed the best interests of the entire horseracing industry, causing serious harm to stakeholders and the government.”
The letter sent by the group was already received by the Office of the President and the letter’s content was disclosed during a news conference in Quezon City.
“We write this letter to make an urgent plea for action to stop the ongoing anomalies in the [Philracom] that are causing enormous revenue losses to the government,” Peralta said in his letter to the President.
“[N]ot to mention, the [Philracom] commissioners’ blatant disregard for your [Duterte] war against graft and corruption,” he added.
Earlier this month, the ATM filed charges before the Office of the Ombudsman against top Philracom officials led by Chairman Andrew Sanchez over the commission’s “inaction” to put a stop to online cockfights in the OTBs, which are supposedly exclusive only for horserace betting.
“Mr. President, we at the ATM firmly believe that it is high time to fire Philracom Chairman Andrew Sanchez as well as his commissioners and executive director,” the letter read.
“[We ask you] to replace them with persons of integrity and competence to save the horseracing industry and the billions of pesos in amusement tax revenues it generates for the government,” it said.
They added that they suspect that the Philracom officials collaborate with some parties allowing the operation of online cockfights in the OTBs and for not doing anything despite the dangers of the activity to the very survival of the racing industry.
“The government earns billions in amusement tax revenues from horseracing, but virtually nothing from online [cockfights],” Peralta said.
He added that the Philracom, as a regulator, “can do something to protect” the horse-racing industry, but alleged that the commission “has not lifted a finger for reasons known only to the commissioners.”
“The negative impact of online cockfights is very clear since horseracing betting revenues have significantly gone down since online cockfights started operations in December 2015,” the group founder explained.
Online cockfights have generated more than P1 billion in 2016 alone because they are being held at the same time as the horse races, according to Peralta.
He said their research showed more than 90 percent of horseracing revenues are being generated by the OTBs.
But such charges filed against the commission would be a “waste of precious time,” according to Philracom’s legal counsel Pilita Venturanza.
Venturanza said Philracom has no jurisdiction of performing such act and is “dumbfounded” being forced to perform acts that have nothing to do with them.
Presidential Decree 420, amended by PD 1095, “expressly excluded” from its jurisdiction functions related to the supervision and regulation of horserace betting and has conferred the same to the Games and Amusements Board, Venturanza said.