Legality of Cockfighting in the Philippines

Cockfighting is a blood sport where two roosters fight against each other inside a pit. In some areas around the world, cockfighting is practiced as a mainstream event; in some countries, it is regulated by law. There are also regions where it is forbidden outright, citing how cocks inflict intense damage against each other, which is increased by removing the cocks’ natural spurs and attaching metal spurs instead. 

Many advocates of this blood sport often list cultural and religious relevance as reasons to continue cockfighting. In this article, we’ll be talking about the deep relationship between the Philippines and cockfighting.

Is Cockfighting Legal in the Philippines?

Cockfighting is both legal and illegal in the Philippines, depending on where the game is held and to what level. Locally termed sabong, legal cockfights occur in licensed cockpits every week whilst illegal ones called tupada or tigbakay are held in secluded cockpits. 

History of Cockfighting in the Philippines

Cockfighting has been around for hundreds of years. However, this sport was not known as a ‘cockfight’ until 1521, with Ferdinand Magellan and his voyage of discovery of the Philippines. Modern cockfighting was then first witnessed and documented by Antonio Pigafetta, an Italian who had been Magellan’s chronicler.

Cockfighting Laws in the Philippines

There is no law banning cock fights in the Philippines. However, there is a measure called Presidential Decree No. 449 or the Anti-Cockfighting Law of 1974, signed during the time of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos, which regulates the sport in the whole country.

Since then, this law has never been amended. Under this regulation, cockfights are allowed only on Sundays, legal holidays, during local fiestas, and on certain other occasions, and only at licensed cockpits. Any person who violates the decree is subject to prison correction and a fine of two thousand pesos

Since 1984, cockfighting is prohibited every Rizal Day on December 30 where violators can be fined or imprisoned due to the Republic Act No. 229. 

Latest Cockfighting Law in the Philippines

On March 14, 2020, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) announced that cock fighting is temporarily banned in the Philippines due to the prohibition of mass gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic and community quarantines across the nation.

Additionally, in April 2020, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte banned cockfighting in Davao City due to the pandemic.

Is Gambling on Cockfighting Legal in the Philippines?

Gambling on bird fighting is legal in the Philippines. In fact, the country has specific terminologies and guidelines when it comes to making bets during cockfights. The betting managers are referred to as kristos, named after Jesus Christ due to their outstretched hands when calling out wagers. The kristos have a system of hand signs due to the distance and loud noise inside the arena. These hand signs allow kristos to communicate their bets with other kristos.

If a finger is pointed upwards, this means the bet is in denominations of “tens”. If a finger is pointed horizontally, this would mean that bets are accepted in terms of “hundreds”. If the finger is pointed downwards, bets are accepted in denominations of “thousands.” 

Is Online Cock Fighting Legal in the Philippines?

Online cockfighting or e-sabong rose to prominence during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. It quickly became a popular pastime due to it being easily accessible via mobile phones. Initially, online sabong was approved by the government as it became an industry that generated billions in monthly revenue. 

However, numerous crimes ensued because of online cockfighting, including the disappearance of more than 30 people who were last seen at cockfighting arenas. The disappearance case has called the attention of the government, prompting them to take action. E-sabong operations are now prohibited in the Philippines. 

Cockfighting Industry in the Philippines

Raising fowl for cockfighting goes back 6,000 years. The first documented use of the word “gamecock” was recorded in 1634 after George Wilson used the term “cock of the game” in The Commendation of Cocks and Cock Fighting, the earliest known book on the sport. The birds are specially bred and conditioned to have increased stamina and strength.

In Philippine cockfighting, game fowl used in fights are either native breeds or imported ones. Fighting cocks must be properly trained and fed with supplements that make them stronger, aggressive, and more agile. Birds are pitted against each other in an arena or ring called sabungan.

Whether it is a legal cockfight event or an illegal tupada, roosters are fitted with knives or gaffs. There are two kinds of knives used in a local cockfight: single-edged blades, which are used in derbies, and double-edged blades. All knives are attached to the left leg of the bird.

In some cases, depending on the agreement between the two owners, the metal spurs can be attached on the right or even both legs of the roosters. Matches are judged by a referee called sentensyador or koyme, whose verdict is final and cannot be appealed. 

When a fight ends, bets are exchanged. Most matches take approximately 15 minutes. Not all fights end in the death of a fighting cock. Those who live endure significant physical trauma. Most of the time, birds only live to fight one or two more matches before their demise.  

Cockfighting is a billion-dollar industry in the Philippines. Bets usually range from 10 to 100 USD for spectators in cheaper seats, while spectators in the VIP section of pits wager 1,000 to 10,000 USD. Selling fighting cocks has also become a lucrative business, with many Americans traveling all the way to the Philippines to sell their birds. According to the United Gamefowl Breeders in the US, a number of its members make around 1,000 to 2,500 USD for a single rooster. 

World Slasher Cup

The World Slasher Cup, considered to be the Super Bowl of the cockfighting world, is held biannually at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, in Quezon City, Metro Manila. World Slasher Cup derbies consist of 5 to 7 days of matches that attract both rooster owners and spectators alike. 

Aside from the World Slasher Cup, the World Gamefowl Expo is also usually held at the World Trade Center Metro Manila.  

Final Note

In many parts of the world, cockfighting, a sport where two cocks battle out in a pit, is illegal and frowned upon. However, in the Philippines, cockfighting is widely embraced and enjoys a status that is unlike the rest of the world.

Many Filipinos find it difficult to resist the allure of a cock fight. Some may say it’s because of the thrill that the blood sport brings, or perhaps it’s the betting that draws them to it. 

If you’re interested in knowing the legality of cockfighting in other parts of the world, check out this article