Department of Justice

DOJ’s response to missing ‘sabungeros’: Dialogue with families

Jairo Bolledo
DOJ’s response to missing ‘sabungeros’: Dialogue with families

MISSING. Families of missing cockfight aficionados or "sabungeros," hold a dialogue with the justice secretary at the Department of Justice office on December 2, 2022. The dialogue also included officials of the National Bureau of Investigation and Philippine National Police.

Rappler

Most of the families say they are looking forward to the resolution of the case, but the DOJ says there is no specific release date yet

MANILA, Philippines – The families of missing sabungeros or cockfight aficionados agreed to hold regular dialogues with the Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding the disappearances, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said.

Nag-agree kami magkaroon ng regular dialogues. Hopefully every second Wednesday of the month. January ang susunod, magkikita kami ulit (We’ve agreed to have regular dialogues. Hopefully every second Wednesday of the month. Our next meeting is on January, we will meet again),” Remulla told reporters in an interview on Friday, December 2.

Months since the sabungeros started to disappear, the administration, through the DOJ, had met with around 20 families of the missing players.

Aside from Remulla, the Philippine National Police led by Criminal Investigation Detection Group (CIDG) chief Police Brigadier General Ronald Lee also attended the meeting.

When asked by reporters, most of the families present said they are looking forward to the prosecution’s resolution on the complaints they had filed. This would also determine whether charges would be filed before the courts.

Remulla said he cannot give a definite answer on when the resolution would be released.

“Hopefully, meron nang resolution ang ibang mga kaso (other cases already have a resolution)… We’re talking about eight cases, eight clustered cases. And I think four of them have been filed, some of them still have to be filed. There are leads in other cases that are still being followed up,” the justice secretary explained.

DOJ’s response to missing ‘sabungeros’: Dialogue with families

“I cannot promise anything that I cannot control. But I can urge them to resolve it in the soonest possible time,” Remulla added, referring to the families’ demand that the resolution be released on December.

The DOJ chief said some of the cases in relation to missing sabungeros are still under investigation.

At least 34 cockfighting aficionados have gone missing, according to the CIDG. The police unit said complaints were already filed against eight identified persons and other unnamed individuals tagged in the case.

The CIDG said complaints were also filed against five police personnel and their cohorts in the case of Ricardo Lasco, who went missing in Laguna on August 30, 2021. Another complaint was filed by the PNP CIDG before the DOJ on Thursday in relation to the missing sabungeros.

Calls for justice

Carmelita Lasco, Ricardo’s mother, attended the DOJ meeting in a wheelchair. She is longing for her son who has been missing for over a year now. Her daughters said their mother’s health deteriorated when Ricardo, their younger brother, had gone missing.

Inside the DOJ, Carmelita carried her son’s photo and called for justice: “Sana mapansin kami. Ito na ang pagkakataon namin na makita namin ang hustisya para sa aming mga anak na [involved] sa e-sabong.”

(I hope they will notice us. This is our chance to attain the justice we are looking for our children involved in e-sabong.)

According to his family, Ricardo was allegedly robbed and abducted by at least 15 armed assailants in Barangay San Lucas 1 in San Pablo City. Assailants used a white Toyota Grandia, a gray Hyundai Starex, and a black Fortuner as getaway cars in the crime, Ricardo’s family added.

Butch Inonog’s son, John Claude, has been missing since January. Three months after his son went missing, in March, they filed a complaint but they have yet to hear from authorities.

His son’s case was considered the first one to be filed in relation to the missing sabungeros. When asked if the government was able to give them an update on the resolution, Inonog said it was not directly addressed during their dialogue.

But, Inonog said they are hopeful the resolution would be released soon.

When asked by reporters why the government has yet to provide updates on Inonog’s case, Remulla replied: “I don’t know. Tatanungin ko (I will ask). I only stepped into this today. Bago lang akong salta dito (I am only new here), but I will try my best.”

Remulla said there is a concerted effort behind the disappearance of sabungeros, adding that “there looks to be a group behind it.” – Rappler.com

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering the police, crime, military, and security.