AFTER sacrificing an MPBL title contender to cleanse its lineup amid allegations of game fixing, the Muntinlupa Cagers have promised to put up an 'immaculate yet competitive team' for the coming season.
With a new set of team owners and coaching staff, the Cagers' press conference turned into a declaration of war against game fixing - an issue that has saddled not just the MPBL but also other leagues in the country.
“We won’t let our team’s name be tarnished by game fixing and other forms of gambling. Integrity and winning with dignity will always be our utmost priority,” said lawyer Jemina Sy, the Cagers’ legal counsel turned new team owner.
The Cagers were the runner-ups to inaugural champions Tanduay Batangas Athletics in MPBL Rajah Cup before bowing to Zamboanga in the Southern Division semifinals of the Datu Cup (2nd season).
Then came allegations of game-fixing by members of the former Muntinlupa team that became so rampant the team had to put its foot down.
“We were supposed to go up, pero suddenly pababa kami ng pababa. Then the issue of game-fixing around the league came out. Dun lumakas yung suspicion namin,” said team manager Kaizer John Galvez.
“So, what we did was investigate, suddenly in our tapes, we see players passing to the foot of a teammate during crunchtime, shooting a perimeter jumper when we were down by 3 or most of the time, tumatama sa paa ang dribble. They’re supposed to be high level cagers, right?” he added.
Sy bared that their decision to rebuild their team from scratch is their way of supporting Pacquiao and the MPBL's fight against game fixing.
“This is an advocacy. We love the league and we don’t want it to be ruined like that. The league has so much potential. Then suddenly, this issue adds to the stress of team owners? In all honesty, accusations like this somehow affects the gate attendance. Who wants to watch a ‘rigged’ game?” she added.
Sy, an outspoken lawyer and civic leader from Marilao, Bulacan, also revealed that they are coming up with their own house rules wherein players or team staff found to be involved in ‘byahe’ will be meted with corresponding sanctions.
“We are now drafting our manual, wherein certain guidelines will be clearly stipulated, so in case there are suspected game fixers in our team, there is a framework we can always approach and evaluate on. Hopefully this serves as a deterrent to these kinds of shenanigans, it really kills the sport,” said Sy.
She hopes other teams will follow suit.
And now that JRU Heavy Bombers head coach Louie Gonzalez has been named as the new Cagers’ mentor, Sy bared that the first order of business is to carefully scrutinize the players to be named to their team.
The coaching staff of the Cagers hope to release an initial lineup in the next two weeks.
“Yes, yan ang challenge. So mabigat talaga kasi we’re forming a team from scratch then talagang inaaral namin yung mga players na iko consider. Ang advantage ko naman is matagal na tayo sa basketball, naaral na natin halos lahat ng players,” said Gonzalez, once a coach of Globalport (now Northport) in the PBA.
“Honestly, [secretary general] ako ng Basketball Coaches Association of the Philippines and isa talaga sa tinututukan ko is yung alarming na rate ng akusasyon sa game fixing. Kaya timely rin yung advocacy na ito ng management ng Muntinlupa Cagers para mas maging maingay yung laban,” he said.
“Actually ang daming laro dyan na kaduda-duda. May semis ang score less than 50 for both teams. May laro naman na halos 100 points ang lamang ng kalaban. That’s not basketball. Kahit sa barangay [leagues] hindi nangyayari yan,” added Gonzalez, an associate of Aldin Ayo.
The management also hopes to put more premium on homegrown talents.
“Yung locals ang magiging focus namin. We’ll have separate tryouts for them . Then using our coaching staff, including former PBA guard Glenn Capacio, we will conduct more basketball clinics sa Muntinlupa,” said Galvez.