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    The many times game-fixing suspicion raised red flag in PH basketball

    Apr 15, 2021

    WEDNESDAY'S controversial game between the ARQ-Lapu-Lapu City Heroes and the Siquijor Mystics in the Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup was another blackeye for Philippine basketball.

    The game, which was stopped at halftime due to a power outage, turned out to be a farcical display which touched raw nerves of basketball-hungry fans especially in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    What hurt more than the botched free throws and blown layups was the dent on the integrity of the regional league which was only on its fourth playdate.

    Since then, a deluge of criticisms have been thrown, with the most evident being allegations of game-fixing.

    Far Eastern University athletic director Mark Molina said it best: "Fixing of games has been happening in sports for a long time."

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    The thing is no matter how disparaging the acts are for all parties involved, no one would be willing to step forward and offer legitimate proof of it happening, all the more be punished for their wrongdoings.

    Still, there's still a few who took the disrespect to the next level and Spin.ph dug deep in the archives to see which games and teams have found themselves in the middle of these game-fixing controversies.

    Soccsksargen Marlins


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    Going 0-18 to start the season really is going to raise some eyebrows.

    And the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) responded by suspending Soccsksargen after its horror start to the Lakan Cup.

    National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) soon stepped in the case and after its probe, found their suspicions to be true.

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    League founder Sen. Manny Pacquiao and MPBL commissioner Kenneth Duremdes filed 17 counts of betting and multiple counts of game-fixing and point-shaving to Marlins team owner Kevin Espinosa on November 2019 as he was one of the 21 persons charged, which also included three Chinese nationals.

    That same month, new management came in to lead the rechristened Sarangani Marlins as they finished the season with a 1-29 record.

    Pampanga Giant Lanterns


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    With the MPBL launching a crackdown on game-fixing, Pampanga incurred two hits as its backcourt tandem of Mark Cruz and Michael Juico were suspended by the league.

    The two were declared persons of interest following the Giant Lanterns' North Division semifinals loss to San Juan in March 2020.

    There was little development to the cases as the pandemic put a stop to the league's operations.

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    Juico has since led the Pampanga Delta to the championship in the National Basketball League (NBL), and signed with the Basilan Peace Riders for the Mindanao leg of the Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup.

    Muntinlupa Cagers

    It's rare to see a team admit missteps within its confines.

    But Muntinlupa did just that and cleansed its ranks after game-fixing allegations made by members of its old team.

    "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 Atty. Jemina Sy, the Cagers’ legal counsel-turned-team owner back in March 2020.

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    It was a tough freefall for Muntinlupa, which was one of the contenders in the MPBL's first two seasons before languishing to a 7-23 record in the Lakan Cup.

    Muntinlupa never came out in public with those involved and instead, introduced new faces to lead the team led by new head coach Louie Gonzalez.

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    CEU Scorpions

    Not even collegiate teams are spared from game-fixing controversies.

    CEU kicked out seven players from its ranks after they reportedly admitted their involvement in the offense in the summer league.

    "We have strong evidence and they've admitted it and now, they're out of the team," said then-Scorpions head coach Derrick Pumaren in May 2019. "We cannot tolerate those things."

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    Despite the departures, CEU dug deep and finished runner-up in the 2019 PBA D-League Aspirants' Cup and even ruled the NCRAA tournament that season behind Senegalese center Maodo Malick Diouf.

    Mila's Lechon Mighty Roasters

    Pathetic was Mila's Lechon's four-game stint in the PBA D-League, with the worst of its losses coming in the form of a 47-point mauling, 55-102, at the hands of Zark’s Burger-Lyceum in February 2018.

    After a promising first half, the Mighty Roasters all of a sudden seemed to have forgot how to play basketball as it committed unforced turnovers and showed little desire to play the game which even disturbed opposing coach Topex Robinson.

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    "Basketball has been good to us and the only thing we can do is to respect the game. I just told them that they’re so lucky that they’re in this team that nurtures that kind of respect for the game," he told the Jawbreakers.

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    Mila's Lechon truly were an eyesore, losing by an average of 26.3 points in the 2018 Aspirants' Cup that it triggered an inquiry from the PBA's technical committee and summons for head coach Jesse Ricardo and lead assistant Edward Deveza.

    Days later, the Mighty Roasters pulled out of that season's Aspirants' Cup, with owner Aika Salanguit citing internal problems in fielding a competitive crew. The team was soon disbanded.

    Spate of games in the 2019 PBA D-League Foundation Cup

    The PBA D-League was near unwatchable in the second half of 2019 as a bevy of unscrupulous teams marred the developmental league.

    PBA commissioner Willie Marcial vowed to put his foot down especially after a stretch of "highly irregular results" and dubious patterns which broke a number of league scoring records, exclamated by BRT Sumisip-St. Clare's 180-117 rout of Hyperwash in September 16.

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    That result broke the Saints' old record set against Black Mamba Energy Drink, which they demolished, 161-122, back in September 2.

    Another team that conference in Nailtalk-St. Dominic Savio had to withdraw after the same peculiar results saw it lose by an average of 26.5 points in its first four games, none more horrifying than its 61-point demolition at the hands of CEU, 107-66. School president Dr. Nestor V. Dela Cruz cited internal issues behind the decision.

    Spin.ph uncovered patterns in international betting sites when the games were ongoing.

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    The league eventually put out a memo noting that anyone proven to be disparaging the integrity of games will be suspended or perpetually banned.

    Curiously, Joel Palapal, the head coach of the Siquijor Mystics side that got banned from the VisMin Cup, was also the mentor of the Hyperwash Vipers.

    PBA

    The pro league also didn't escape controversy as Don Allado ranted on his Twitter page that "PBA games are fixed" in a moment of frustration.

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    Allado was then part of the Barako Bull Energy, which lost in the first step of the sixth-seed playoffs to Powerade, 99-95 in the 2012 Governors' Cup back in July 3.

    "They control who is in & who is out. It's a disgrace to be in this league. I am bitter about losing. Not to Powerade, but to PBA . In my opinion, this league has little credibility left," he wrote.

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    The remark wasn't taken lightly by then-PBA commissioner Chito Salud, who said that the claims were "baseless and unfounded it came from someone who has lost his mind and a sore loser."

    Allado did apologize to the league but was handed a one-conference ban and a P500,000 fine.

    UST Growling Tigers

    Game-fixing claims were hurled against University of Santo Tomas after its UAAP Season 78 defeat to Far Eastern University in 2016.

    A report claimed that the involved persons, which weren't named, received new cars and a house after the series.

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    That's on top of the maltreatment allegations pressed against then-Growling Tigers head coach Bong dela Cruz.

    The school administration, led by then-Institute of Physical Education and Athletics (IPEA) director Fr. Ermito De Sagon, conducted an investigation but did not release their findings.

    Dela Cruz was not renewed the following season.

    FEU Tamaraws

    FEU also had its fair share of game-fixing allegations involving high-profile players over the years.

    The most notable was the assertions lodged against Mark Barroca in 2009, with the Tamaraws management calling it a "disciplinary action" for his alleged involvement in point-shaving or game-fixing activities. "We’re very sad but we have to do what’s right for the university,” said FEU athletic director Anton Montinola.

    FEU, without its best player, still finished as the second-seed but lost to University of the East in the UAAP Season 72 Final Four.

    Barroca has repeatedly denied these claims over the years and has enjoyed considerable success in the PBA, winning six titles since being drafted fifth overall in the 2011 PBA Rookie Draft.

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    Another was against Mac Baracael, who was even shot by an unidentified assailant in 2008 with some believing the incident was related to game-fixing issues.

    He did make his comeback that UAAP Season 71 and helped the Tamaraws reach the Final Four, only to bow to La Salle.

    Baracael soon made it to the PBA and enjoyed a seven-year professional career.

    UAAP referees

    Referees receive the most amount of vitriol in any basketball game, but University of the Philippines coach Rey Madrid took it up a notch in 2014 when he accused the referees of point-shaving after the Fighting Maroons' 73-57 loss to UST in August 2.

    "It’s not hard to think malice kapag ganun. Kasi inabot pa nila eh," he told Spin.ph's Reuben Terrado in an old interview. "Eh may numero eh. Tapos na yung game, hinahabol pa nila. Ilan ba ang plus?"

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    The officials employed that season came from the Basketball Referees Association for Schools, Colleges, and Universities (Brascu), a group headed by Joe Lipa, Madrid's former coach in UP.

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    Madrid did offer an apology, but UAAP commissioner Andy Jao later suspended Madrid for the rest of the first round for his detrimental comments.

    The Fighting Maroons coach missed two games as the Diliman side finished UAAP Season 77 with a 1-13 slate.

    St. Benilde Blazers

    It was in 2007 when Paolo Orbeta and three more individuals were nabbed by NBI agents in an entrapment operation for game-fixing and point-shaving.

    He was subsequently dropped by St. Benilde from its team as the Blazers finished NCAA Season 83 with a 1-11 record, dead-last in the league.

    Orbeta has said since that the courts have cleared him of the charges and graduated from the school.

    He is now the team owner of the Makati Super Crunch in the MPBL.

    EAC Generals

    Former EAC coach Gerry Esplana raised the curtain on the game-fixing machinations in his time in the NCAA where he claimed that a foreign student of his was involved in such deplorable manner.

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    "Pinapuntahan ko yan at totoo nga. Kaya sinabi namin sa management, nag-meeting kami ng mga assistant coaches and then we were told by the management, kami na ang bahala," he said in an old interview.

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    Esplana served as the Generals' head coach for four seasons from 2011 to 2014, tendering his resignation at the conclusion of NCAA Season 90 when his side finished with a 4-14 record.

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