Despite an impending federal ban next year, cockfighting would just be driven underground and continue to thrive in the CNMI, according to a local aficionado.
“It would be difficult to put a stop to cockfighting events here in the CNMI,” said David, who requested anonymity. “It has been part of [local] culture and history; they have inherited this pastime from their ancestors.”
David, who works attaching the blade to fighting cocks whenever there’s a derby or a special event that’s held every weekend in As Lito, concedes that the sanctioned derbies would stop “but it will just go underground or in secret since there are a lot of people who enjoy cockfighting here. Especially if there are special events like parties, it will be hard to put a stop on this.”
The ban on cockfighting came about after President Donald J. Trump’s signed into law the $867-billion farm bill, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. It is now Public Law 115-334.
P. L. 115-334 extends the federal ban of cockfighting to the U.S. territories of American Samoa, the CNMI, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands—U.S. jurisdictions where the animal blood sport has a huge following.
David pointed out that a lot of influential people in the CNMI patronize cockfighting or own and breed gamecocks. The ban on cockfighting would also affect the livelihood of people like him.
“The people here know who patronizes sabong (the Tagalog term for cockfighting). There are still outside events, even if there’s one here in As Lito. Some people like me rely on this for extra income,” said David.
He is what sabongeros (cockfighting aficionados) call a “doctor” since he also tends to the wounds of game fowls after each fight and takes care of the birds in giving vitamins and other supplements from chick to adulthood during breeding.
“I went to a seminar to study all of this. From the proper and effective way of tying the blade before a fight to taking care of the wounded gamecock. I’ve learned all of this when I worked as a breeder…in 2010.”
“I don’t place bets and just take care of gamecocks. I also take care of game fowl from the time they hatch by giving them vitamins and pre-conditioning them,” added David.
“It would be hard for us, for people like me that have this as an extra income. …I believe cockfighting will continue here.”
The ban, which will become official in one year, overrides all local laws that legalizes and regulates cockfighting in the territories. Cockfighting had been already banned and considered a felony in several states in the mainland like California prior to the signing of P. L. 115-334.
The new law imposes a fine and a five-year prison term to people who would sponsor an event while those who would attend face a fine and one-year prison term.