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The Laws and Legalities of Cockfighting in the Philippines

When it comes to sports, Filipinos cannot live without basketball and, of course, cockfighting. Although the latter is more of a gambling than a sport, many people are also involved in breeding gamefowls as both recreation and business. But the big question that many people, especially foreigners, ask is, “Is cockfighting legal in the Philippines?” We will discuss the answer in this article.

Cockfighting in the Philippines is both legal and illegal, depending on where the game is held and to what level. The “Cockfighting Law of 1974” under former President Ferdinand E. Marcos regulates the game in the whole country, and since then, it has never been amended.


The following is clearly stated:

NOW, THEREFORE, I, FERDINAND E. MARCOS, President of the Philippines, under the powers vested in me by the Constitution, do hereby decree and order to be part of the laws of the land, the following:

Sec 1. Title. This Decree shall be known as the “Cockfighting Law of 1974”.

Section 2. Scope. This law shall govern the establishment, operation, maintenance, and ownership of cockpits.

Section 3. Declaration of Policy. It is hereby declared a policy of the government to ensure within the framework of the New Society maximum development and promotion of wholesome recreation and amusement to bring about the following goals:

  • (a) To effectively control and regulate cockfighting towards its establishment as a national recreation, relaxation, and source of entertainment;
  • (b) To provide additional revenue for our tourism program; and
  • (c) Remove and prevent excessive and unreasonable business operation and profit considerations in the management of cockpits, preserve Philippine customs and traditions, and thereby enhance our national identity.

Section 4. Definition of Terms. As used in this law, the following terms shall be understood, applied, and construed as follows:

(a) Cockfighting shall embrace and mean the commonly known game or term “cockfighting derby, pintakasi or tupada”, or its equivalent terms in different Philippine localities.

  • (b) Zoning Law or Ordinance.  National or local city or municipal legislation logically arranges, prescribes, defines, and apportions a given political subdivision into specific land uses as present and future projections of needs warrant.
  • (c) Bet Taker of Promoter.  A person who calls and takes care of bets from owners of both gamecocks and those of other bettors before he orders the commencement of the cockfight and distributes won bets to the winners after deducting a certain commission.
  • (d) Gaffer (Taga Tari).  A person who is knowledgeable in the art of arming fighting cocks with gaffs or gaffs on either or both legs.
  • (e) Referee (Sentenciador) A person who watches and oversees the proper gaffing of fighting cocks, determines the physical condition of fighting cocks while cockfighting is in progress, the injuries sustained by the cocks and their capability to continue fighting, and decides and make known his decision by work or gestures and the result of the cockfight by announcing the winner or declaring a tie or no contest game.
  • (f) Bettor (llamador/lyamador/Kristo). A person who participates in cockfights and, with the use of money or other things of value, bets with other bettors or through the bet taker or promoter and wins or loses his bet depending upon the result of the cockfight as announced by the Referee or Sentenciador. He may be the owner of the fighting cock.

Section 5. Cockpits and Cockfighting: In General:

  • (a) Ownership, Operation, and Management of Cockpits. Only Filipino citizens not otherwise inhibited by existing laws shall be allowed to own, manage, and operate cockpits. Cooperative capitalization is encouraged.
  • (b) Establishment of Cockpits. Only one cockpit shall be allowed in each city or municipality, except in cities or municipalities with a population of over one hundred thousand. Two cockpits may be established, maintained, and operated.
  • (c) Cockpits Site and Construction. Cockpits shall be constructed and operated within the appropriate areas prescribed in the Zoning Law or Ordinance. Without such law or ordinance, the local executives shall see that no cockpits are constructed within or near existing residential or commercial areas, hospitals, school buildings, churches, or other public buildings. Owners, lessees, or operators of cockpits that are now in existence and do not conform to this requirement are given three years from the date of effectivity of this Decree to comply herewith. Approval or issuance of building permits for the construction of cockpits shall be made by the city or provincial engineer following their respective building codes, ordinances, or engineering laws and practices.
  • (d) Holding of Cockfights. Except as provided in this Decree, cockfighting shall be allowed only in licensed cockpits during Sundays and legal holidays and during local fiestas for not more than three days. It may also be held during provincial, city or municipal, agricultural, commercial or industrial fair, carnival, or exposition for a similar period of three days upon resolution of the province, city or municipality where such fair, carnival or exposition is to be held, subject to the approval of the Chief of Constabulary or his authorized representative: Provided, that, no cockfighting on the occasion of such fair, carnival or exposition shall be allowed within the month of a local fiesta or for more than two occasions a year in the same city or municipality: Provided, further, that no cockfighting shall be held on December 30 (Rizal Day), June 12 (Philippine Independence Day) November 30 (National Heroes Day), Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Election or Referendum Day and during Registration Days for such election or referendum.
  • (e) Cockfighting for the Entertainment of Tourists or Charitable Purposes. Subject to the preceding subsection hereof, the Chief Constabulary or his authorized representative may also allow the holding of cockfighting for the entertainment of foreign dignitaries or tourists, or for returning Filipinos, commonly known as “Balikbayan,” or for the support of national fund-raising campaigns for charitable purposes as may be authorized by the Office of the President, upon resolution of a provincial board, city or municipal council, in licensed cockpits or playgrounds or parks: Provided, that this privilege shall be extended for only one time, for a period not exceeding three days, within a year to a province, city, or municipality.
  • (f) Other games during cockfights prescribed. No gambling of any kind shall be permitted on the premises of the cockpit or place of cockfighting during cockfights. The owner, manager, or lessee of such cockpit and the violators of this injunction shall be criminally liable under Section 8 hereof.

Section 6. Licensing of Cockpits. City and municipal mayors are authorized to issue licenses for the operation and maintenance of cockpits subject to the approval of the Chief of Constabulary or his authorized representatives. For this purpose, ordinances may be promulgated for the imposition and collection of taxes and fees not exceeding the rates fixed under Section 13, paragraphs (a) and (b); and 19; paragraph (g) 16 of Presidential Decree No. 231, dated June 28, 1973, otherwise known as the Local Tax Code, as amended.

Section 7. Cockfighting Officials. Gaffers, referees, bet takers, or promoters shall not act as such in any cockfight herein authorized without first securing a license renewable every year on their birth month from the city or municipality where such cockfighting is held. Cities and municipalities may charge a tax of not more than twenty pesos. Only licensed gaffers, referees, bet-takers, or promoters shall officiate in all cockfighting authorized in this Decree.

Section 8. Penal Provisions. Any violation of the provisions of this Decree and the rules and regulations promulgated by the Chief of Constabulary pursuant thereto shall be punished as follows:

  • (a) By prison correctional for its maximum period and a fine of two thousand pesos, with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency, when the offender is the financer, owner, manager, or operator of the cockpit, or the gaffer, referee, or bet taker in cockfights; or the offender is guilty of allowing, promoting, or participating in any other kind of gambling in the premises of cockfights during cockfights.
  • (b) By prison correctional or a fine of not less than six hundred pesos nor more than two thousand pesos or both, such imprisonment and fine at the court’s discretion, with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency, in case of any other offender.

Section 9. Repealing Clause. The provisions of Sections 2285 and 2286 of the Revised Penal Code, Republic Act No. 946, and all laws, decrees, rules, regulations, or orders inconsistent with this Decree are hereby repealed or modified accordingly.

Section 10. Date of Effectivity. This Decree shall take effect fifteen (15) days after the completion of publication in the Official Gazette.

Done in the City of Manila, this 9th day of May, in the year of Our Lord, nineteen hundred and seventy-four.

Given the above guidelines, cockfighting in the Philippines has been operated both in accordance and not under the above law.

When is cockfighting legal?

As stated above, cockfighting is legal only if it is held in licensed cockpits with a license to operate during fiestas issued by Mayors.

When is cockfighting illegal?

Everyone knows that cockfighting is everywhere in the Philippines, and only those held in licensed cockpits and stadiums are legal. Most pada or look (local cockfights) held in Barangay fiesta are illegal, but because they are sometimes controlled by the local mayor or an influential Brgy Captain, they became allowed. Local cockfighting activities are sometimes becoming the source of local politicians’ corruption. Whoever controls cockfighting activities in a single municipality or city is like sitting in millions of pesos, and this is why cockfighting is always a hot topic.

Is it safe to attend and watch cockfighting?

If the cockfight is held in a city or municipality proper inside a big cockpit, it is mostly legal and controlled by authorities. Therefore, it is safe to watch and observe. But if the cockfight is held somewhere remote with a makeshift cockpit, be prepared to run anytime police show up. This is illegal and could result in big trouble.

Where to watch cockfights?

Watching cockfights is always available wherever you are in the Philippines, especially before the Coronavirus pandemic. There are operational cockpits in almost every province. If you see a gamefowl, ask the owner where the nearest cockpit is and what the schedule of games is. Everyone who owns a gamefowl knows the schedule and places of cockfights.

Questions related to cockfighting

What is cockfighting in the Philippines?

Cockfighting is hugely popular in the Philippines, where millions of dollars are bet on weekly matches. Roosters wearing bladed leg spurs go beak to beak in a brutal fight to the death, as spectators – primarily men – wager on the result.

Why is cockfighting banned in many countries?

In addition to cruelty to animals, cockfighting is often linked to other crimes, such as illegal gambling, robbery, drug use or selling, and even murder—for instance, a triple homicide occurred at a Texas cockfight.

Where does cockfighting happen?

Cockfights have historically taken place in cockpits, which are round arenas bounded by wood, plexiglass, or chicken wire. Stadium seating might be offered at more posh facilities, but at “brush pits,” the audience might stand or sit on primitive benches or old car seats.

What is the purpose of cockfighting?

Cockfighting is an age-old practice in which two or more specially bred birds, known as gamecocks, are placed in an enclosed pit to fight for the primary purposes of gambling and entertainment.

Do roosters fight to the death?

Fights occur between roosters as well as hens; however, when fights break out between two roosters, they are usually more violent–often leading to multiple severe injuries or death. Even roosters that were raised together will frequently have violent fights when it involves hens.

Is rooster fighting cruel?

While the rules usually do not require one or both birds to die to declare a winner, death is often the outcome due to the severity of injuries. Besides being cruel to animals, cockfighting is closely connected to other crimes such as gambling, drugs, and acts of violence.

Who invented cockfighting?

The sport was popular in ancient times in India, China, Persia, and other Eastern countries. It was introduced into Greece in the time of Themistocles (c. 524–460 bc) and spread throughout Asia Minor and Sicily.

What happens if you get caught cockfighting?

A first-time violation of cockfighting laws is a misdemeanor. The penalties may include Imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

Is there cockfighting in the USA?

Cockfighting is illegal in all 50 states; Louisiana’s cockfighting ban, passed in 2007, is the most recent. Cockfighting also is illegal in the District of Columbia but remains legal in Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Why is cockfighting very popular in the Philippines?

In 1974, the Cockfighting Law was passed. It acknowledged sabong as “a popular, traditional, and customary form of recreation and entertainment among Filipinos” that should be “a vehicle for the preservation and perpetuation of native Filipino heritage and, thereby, enhance our national identity.”

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