Cracking the whip
The Department of Justice (DOJ) is set to file criminal charges against the people involved in the game-fixing scandal that rocked Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League’s (MPBL) Lakan Cup back in 2019, including one player who is a member of the Siquijor Mystics, a team expelled from the Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup because of another apparent match manipulation incident.
The DOJ revealed on Friday that among those facing raps are 12 members of the Soccsksargen Marlins: Jake Diwa (14 counts) Exequiel Biteng (13); Jerome Juanico (14), Matthew Bernabe (12), Julio Magbanua (10); Abraham Santos (10), John Patrick Rabe (seven), Ryan Regalado (nine), Janus Lozada (one), Ricky Morillo (one), Joshua Alcober (one) along with the team’s head coach, Ferdinand Melocoton (one).
Alcober is a member of the Siquijor squad ejected by the VisMin league on Thursday after the team played dubiously in a match against Lapu-Lapu late Wednesday night. Sources from Cebu and Manila told the Inquirer late Thursday that Siquijor was apparently trying to cover a spread in quarter scoring to favor certain bettors, thus the obvious missed shots during the game.
‘A bad cycle’
As this developed, a player from the Lapu-Lapu squad in the VisMin league validated the claims of Inquirer sources saying the Heroes dragged themselves into the mess only after it became apparent what the Mystics were planning during the match, which was halted at halftime and the score pegged at 27-13. “Going into the second quarter, that’s when we felt that the game was changing for the worse; our coaches wanted to talk to their coaches and tell the opposing team’s players to play properly,” Rendell Senining told former University of the Philippines standout Mikee Reyes in Filipino in an interview aired in the latter’s YouTube channel. “It’s a bad cycle, it’s disrespectful to the game and personally I love the game.”
According to sources, Siquijor made it apparent that they were intentionally falling into a huge deficit, a ploy that Lapu-Lapu team owner Jason Arquisola said the Mystics did not bother masking.
“Their players kept egging our players to build the lead further and would even wink at our bench whenever they missed a shot or a free throw,” Arquisola said in a Facebook post.
The sources further said that when Lapu-Lapu figured out what was going on, the Heroes decided to miss their own shots so that Siquijor would not get what it was hoping for.
Among those caught in widely-circulated videos flubbing shots was Senining, who missed his two free throws by taking shots with his left and right hands. But the Lapu-Lapu player said he didn’t do it out of disrespect for the game, but only to thwart Siquijor’s plans.
“My teammates and I were offended [by Siquijor’s actions] and they really love the game,” Senining said. “When we realized what they were doing, we [decided to do the same to them].”Senining added that the Heroes were shouting from the bench calling for a stoppage of play.“[W]e didn’t handle the situation right, we handled it poorly,” he added. “But it was never in our intention to mock the game, never our intention to fix the game or whatever.”
The DOJ’s charges against the MPBL personalities comes at a perfect time as it sets the stage for yet another cracking of the whip on the attempted point-shaving machinations in the VisMin league.
Also being charged are Quezon City Capitals coaching staff Serafin Matias (seven counts), Sonny Uy (nine) and the alleged mastermind, a certain Chinese national identified only as “Mr. Sung” (14), together with his cohorts Kein Zhu (three) and Emma Meng (one).
No less than MPBL’s founding chair, Sen. Manny Pacquiao, and commissioner Kenneth Duremdes lodged the complaint in November of 2019, following “strange patterns” in Soccsksargen’s games. Pacquiao later added that players received commissions ranging from P20,000 to P50,000 for rigging games.
Betting, game fixing and point-shaving in sports contests are punishable under Presidential Decree No. 483.
According to the resolution released by the Office of the Prosecutor General, 17 counts of betting and multiple counts of point-shaving were dismissed for insufficiency of evidence.
Charges against Kevin Espinosa, EJ Avila, Nino Dionisio and Nice Ilagan, who was included in the original complaint two years ago, were also dismissed.
—WITH A REPORT FROM BONG LOZADA and GLENDALE ROSAL INQ
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