Rookie PBA ref banned for rest of conference for Cardona blunder
Rain or Shine banger Beau Belga and Macmac Cardona get tangled up after the controversial final play, which allowed Meralco to escape with a 118-116 overtime win. Jerome Ascano

PBA Commissioner Chito Salud has banned a rookie referee for the rest of the conference for failing to call a foul on Meralco guard Macmac Cardona, who clearly hit Beau Belga's shooting arm while the Rain or Shine center was attempting a potential game-winning three-pointer on Wednesday night.

League insiders said Salud barred referee Rommel Gruta from officiating games for the rest of the Commissioner's Cup after a thorough review of the final play, which allowed Meralco to escape with a 118-116 overtime victory and, in the process, avoid a quarterfinal date with the Painters.

Gruta was the referee nearest to the play and therefore in the best position to make the call.

“Ilang ulit ni-review ni Commissioner 'yun, kagabi sinilip na niya. Tapos kanina ilang beses rin niya na pinanood,” said the source who revealed that another referee, Emy Tankion, escaped suspension since he was a few meters away from the play.

Gruta was supposed to be part of the final pool of 10 referees chosen officiate in the playoffs which will kick off Friday. Instead  the pint-sized referee became the seventh game official, from a pool of 15, to be suspended by Salud this conference.

Rain or Shine team owner Raymund Yu praised the swift and decisive action of the Commissioner’s office on the matter.

“Hanga ako kay Kume kasi mabilis ang aksyon niya at hindi siya natatakot na parusahan ang mga tauhan niya. Kaso sana yung mga game officials naman maging professional sa pag-ganap ng roles nila,” said Yu, who was fuming mad at the dugout on Wednesday night.

“Although sa amin it’s a no-bearing game, nakakahiya 'yun sa mga basketball fans na nagbayad ng tickets. Sana yung mga referees maintindihang mabuti yung interpretasyon ng rules,” he added.

“Kami sanay naman kami matalo. Alam niyo naman kung saan kami galing, pero sana umayos yung mga referees para maging balance ang mga laro. Let the teams decide the games.”

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