Davao cockpit owner says he told promoter to stop derby; no refund of entry fee because derby is “not finished”

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 27 April) — The owner of the New Davao Matina Gallera says he told the promoter of the six-cock derby last month not to push through with it because of the dangers posed by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). 

Businessman Sammy Uy, a close friend of President Rodrigo Duterte,  told MindaNews over the weekend that he informed derby promoter and pit manager Dory Du before the six-cock derby scheduled on March 7, 10, 12 and 14 that it was “medyo delikado” (a bit dangerous) to hold it because of COVID-19.

“I informed Dory i-stop natin yan,” Uy said. But Du, he said, “called the DOH (Department of Health) and “the DOH told Dory walang guidelines” against holding a derby.

Asked which DOH office Du called,  Uy said he does not know.

The New Davao Matina Gallera in Davao City. MindaNews photo by GREGORIO BUENO

MindaNews checked with Dr. Annabelle Yumang, regional director of DOH-Davao on Uy’s statement that Du called the DOH.  She told MindaNews on Sunday: “I have not met Mr. Dory Du and no consultation was made with DOH-XI.”

Du passed away last month. He succumbed to COVID-19 on March 23.

The City Council of Davao unanimously approved on February 4 a resolution approving the request of Du to hold a three-cock derby on March 7, 10 and 12.  Three days later,  on February 7, Health Secretary Francisco Duque issued an advisory against mass gatherings to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and heeding Duque’s advisory, Mayor Sara Duterte canceled on February 10, all activities in the run-up to the Araw ng Dabaw on March 16.

Duque’s February 7 advisory also recommended the “cancellation of such planned

big events or mass gatherings until further advice” and for the public to “avoid crowded places and continue to practice self-protection measures” to further minimize the risk of contracting COVID-19.

Councilor Danilo Dayanghirang, chair of  the committees on Finance, Ways and Means and Appropriations and Games and Amusement, told MindaNews on April 1 that they did not revoke the resolution that approved the conduct of the derby and which became the basis for the issuance of a permit from the Business Bureau, because “it’s a private sponsored event while all other activities were allowed in national level.”

Public health emergency, pandemic

MindaNews sent Uy a set of questions five times via messenger and three times via text message since April 13. He finally answered on April 25, through a phone call.

Rumors have been linking Uy’s name to the cockpit. When MindaNews asked him on the ownership status of the New Davao Matina Gallera, Uy said he is one of the owners of the corporation running the cockpit.

Uy has several other business interests, including an appliance store.

He said they cooperated with the DOH in the contact-tracing of who were at the derby, that they gave copies of the video footage during the derby.  The airconditioned cockpit has high resolution CCTV cameras.

In the Matina Gallera’s tarpaulins and social media postings, the three-cock derby approved by the City Council for March 7, 10 and 12, was dubbed “Araw ng Davao celebration 6-cock derby” on March 7, 10, 12 and 14. It promised a prize pot of 26 million pesos, 17 million of that for the champion.

On March 8, a day after the first elimination round at the derby and two days before the second elimination round, President Duterte declared a state of public health emergency in the country due to COVID-19 and on March 11, a day before the third elimination round, the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic as the disease had spread to more than 100 countries.

“Sabong is word of honor”

On March 12, the derby was ordered stopped shortly before 9 p.m.  by Mayor Duterte, based on her Guidelines No. 7 released at 5:38 p.m. which mandated that “meetings, conventions, exhibits, conferences, parties, and all other similar social activities must be canceled until after the public health emergency has been lifted.”

March 12 was the third round of elimination while March 14 was supposed to be the final round.

Notice outside the streetside entrance of the New Davao Matina Gallera. MIndaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

Uy said he has “lots of witnesses” who can prove he asked Du to stop the derby or take out an elimination round.

In the telephone interview, Uy repeatedly said “sabong is word of honor” and that Du was a stickler for honoring his word.

He said Du explained that calling off the derby would be “nakakahiya” (shameful) because he had given his word of honor that it would push through, people had already arrived from different parts of the country and he had allegedly called the DOH.

No refund

The derby’s promotional materials placed the entry fee at 100,000 pesos and the minimum bet at 11,000 pesos.

The derby attracted at least 400 entries.

Asked if there would be a refund as some derby-goers had asked, Uy said there will be no refund of the 100,000 pesos entry fee because “the derby is not finished.” 

He said they can continue the derby after the public health emergency is lifted, in either Tagum City or Manila “kung talagang ayaw ni Sara” (if Sara does not like it), referring to the mayor of Davao City.

The state-run Philippine Information Agency on April 15 reported that Mayor Duterte said a consensus had been reached between her and majority of the City Council that derbies and “all gambling activities are no longer allowed in the city.”

“Duterte-Carpio said the ban on cockfight derby is similar to the position taken by the City Government of Davao against the small-town lottery which she said is a front of other illegal gambling activities,” the PIA report said.

On April 17, the mayor  issued Executive Order No. 25, declaring April 17 to December 31 this year as a period of mourning and vigilance, prohibiting  extravagant celebrations in deference to the people who died of  COVID-19.

“If ayaw ni Sara (If Sara does not like it), I will follow her,” Uy said.

The New Davao Matina Gallera became the epicenter of COVID-19 not only in the region but also in Mindanao as several confirmed cases were traced to attendance to the derby or exposure to someone who was at the derby.

108 cases in Davao City

As of 5 p.m. on April 26, the DOH-Davao’s Center for Health Development reported 124 cases, 108 of these or 87%,  in Davao City.

How many of the108 cases in the city can be traced to the Matina Gallera cannot be easily ascertained as both the DOH-Davao and the city government do not release to the public the case histories of  COVID-19 positives. Despite repeated demands, the DOH-Davao has yet to release the histories of Cases 9 to 124.

In its press release on April 18, when the regional count was still 99 and Davao City’s total was 83,  the DOH-Davao reported that 32 cases in the region were linked to the derby: 26 “had exposure at Matina Gallera” and six “were exposed to confirmed cases who went to Matina Gallera.”   Of 16 deaths as of April 18, all of them in Davao City, six “had been to Matina Gallera,” eight were “exposed to suspected cases,” one had a history of travel from Manila and the other from Singapore.  It did not explain what “suspected cases” are and if these suspected cases are linked to the derby. Nineteen other confirmed cases were “exposed to suspected cases.”

Outside Davao City, MindaNews has counted 23 cases traced to the derby – eight in Davao del Norte, three in Cotabato City, two in Davao del Sur, two in North Cotabato, two in Butuan City and one each in Davao de Oro, Tubod in Lanao del Norte, Banga in South Cotabato, General Santos City, Maguindanao and Valencia City in Bukidnon.

Out of 32 cases in the region that DOH-Davao said are linked to the Matina Gallera derby as of April 18, 11 are in Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur and Davao De Oro, leaving at least 21 cases in Davao City that are linked to the derby as of that date.

Between April 18 and 26, the total number of COVID-19 positives in Davao City had risen by 25, from 83 to 108.

Highest taxpayer

Uy said the New Davao Matina Gallera is the highest taxpayer among cockpits in Mindanao and the Visayas.

“We follow the rules,” he said, “especially because” they are known to be “kabigan in President.”  Uy has been a friend and election campaign funder of then mayor, now President Duterte.

Businessman Sammy Uy posted this photograph on his FB page on March 29, 2020, showing the timestamp on his phone to debunk rumors he had passed away or was in the intensive care unit of a hospital.

Uy was implicated several times by former Senator Antonio Trillanes for allegedly depositing millions of pesos in the accounts of Duterte and his children, allegations Uy and the Dutertes denied.

“Parati kami maghingi ng permit. Sa ibang area, walang permit. Kami palagi may permit” (We always ask for a permit. In other areas, they don’t. We always do), Uy stressed.

He said they have been paying “more than one million pesos” in taxes to the city government. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)