Bless the beasts
The busted dog fight operations run by Koreans make clear to all and sundry how foreigners are thumbing their noses at Philippine laws, and getting away with it. As police investigators discovered after separate raids last March 30 on an underground dog fight club and dog farm in Calauan and San Pablo City in Laguna, the arrested Koreans were among the same ones nabbed in a similar dog fight club in Indang, Cavite, only last Dec. 3. Making short shrift of the Philippine Animal Welfare Act, the Koreans had merely made bail and moved their operations to another province!
The dog fights were doubtless lucrative. From reports, pit bulls were made to fight in 3- to 5-minute bouts that were caught by “high-class cameras installed around the ring” and streamed live on the Internet, with mostly foreign patrons placing bets of up to a million Korean won ($887 or P37,900) through credit cards or Paypal. The Koreans were conducting the cold-blooded enterprise on a rented 2-hectare property in Barangay Limao in Calauan; more than 300 pit bulls were being kept in the dog farm in Barangay San Gregorio in San Pablo.
Eight Koreans were reported taken for detention at Camp Karingal in Quezon City, and presumably charged with violation of the Philippine Animal Welfare Act (Republic Act No. 8485) and illegal gambling. The Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) had called for a hold-departure order to prevent them from once again giving the law a slip, but Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s hands are apparently tied by a Supreme Court injunction against the issuance of such orders and can only direct her people to request the tribunal for an exception. It is red tape of this sort, unfortunately compounded by a week of pietistic holidays that most public servants feel required to religiously observe, that allows the culture of impunity to flourish.
But this case literally cries out for resolution. According to PAWS executive director Anna Cabrera, the rescued dogs were severely wounded, underfed, and kept in the most brutal conditions, including being chained to steel drums that served as their inadequate shelter from the elements. At least 70 of them were in such terrible shape that they needed to be put down as an act of mercy. Surely this crime inflicted on helpless beasts requires swift justice, except that under Republic Act 8485, violators are obliged to pay a fine of only P5,000 at most, or imprisonment of six months to two years at the maximum—penalties that would have been laughable were the offense not so grievous.
It’s been said that the level of civilization in a country may be accurately judged by how it treats its animals. Indeed, in this neck of the woods where the nouveau riche purchase Hermes bags as one of the necessary steps to complete their makeover, dogs are still routinely rounded up or stolen to be slaughtered for food served in eateries in the north, and stray cats are run over and killed in imaginative ways just for the fun of it. (In a shocking example of ignorance and cruel intentions, a student of the University of the Philippines once bragged online about how he had tortured a cat and ultimately ended its misery by jumping on it. He is said to have mended his ways, but his case shows that a UP education is not always a guarantee against stupidity.)
RA 8485 covers the protection and promotion of the welfare of all animals in the country. It was enacted in 1998 but judging from the way household animals continue to be maltreated and wondrous creatures such as dolphins are killed for sport or food, a great number of Filipinos are unaware of it—or, worse, don’t give a damn. Bagong Henerasyon Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy has filed House Bill No. 5849 seeking to increase the prison term imposed on violators of RA 8485 to 6-12 years and the corresponding bail to P50,000. It’s a move that demands the backing of thinking Filipinos, and PAWS’ Cabrera has appealed to the Aquino administration to make it a priority bill.
Depending on its scant resources and the occasional kindness of strangers, PAWS has been relentless in its efforts to save household animals, including those lost and abandoned in storms and typhoons. It has also strived to raise people’s awareness on their duties and responsibilities toward all animals, even those not in their care. For these, it needs and deserves all the support it can get not only from the government but also from anyone who has ever loved and been loved by a pet.