REMEMBER Eduard Aquino, the controversial PBA referee who quietly faded into the background back in 2016?
Aquino was one of the most high-profile referees the PBA has ever had. He was in the middle of most debates among fans over crucial calls and once figured in a collision with Calvin Abueva that sent him to the hospital for a few days.
Where is Aquino now? Well, he may no longer be active in the PBA, but he is now the commissioner of the country’s newest amateur league — NBL-Philippines. He's no longer referee Eduard but Commissioner Aquino.
Looking back, Aquino said refereeing was one of the most thankless jobs in the world.
“Kami yung talagang nakakaawa kasi kami yung grupo na walang kakampi, walang fans, walang nagmamahal,” Aquino told Facebook sports program Go for Gold InterActive.
“Isipin mo gaano kahirap ang trabaho ng referees. Galit sa 'yo players at management ng magkabilang team, galit din sa inyo fans nila pareho,” he added laughing.
But that doesn't mean that Aquino, who used to play for the PCU Dolphins in the NCAA back in 1996-1998, didn't love his profession.
"Nakakalungkot nga kasi referees ang most maligned people sa lahat ng sports, ang hirap din. Kahit ano ipito mo may magagalit sa'yo. Pag hindi ka pumito, may magagalit pa rin sa'yo. Pag mahina loob mo, talo ka,” he said.
Aquino, a Class A referee during his time in the PBA, was often caught in the middle of feuds among rival fans of Barangay Ginebra and San Mig — and inevitably found himself accused of biased officiating.
Asked about it now, Aquino said: “Never ko ginawang pumabor sa isang team, kahit mamatay na lahat ng mahal ko sa buhay, hindi ako gumawa na labag sa batas ng trabaho ko.a
"Sinasabi nila pinaboran ko San Mig, bakit hindi nila tanungin ibang fans ng San Mig, galit din sa kin mga 'yun. So ibig sabihin, wala akong pinanigan,” he said.
Aquino bared one of his mantras back then: “Kung referee ka, isipin mo na lang para kang effective na kontrabida sa pelikula, the more na may galit sa 'yo both parties, the more na effective ka sa trabaho mo. Kasi ibig sabihin nun, patas ang tawagan mo.”
It is also the same philosophy he shares with his pool of league referees as commissioner of the NBL, Aquino bared.
“Lahat ng referees namin, talagang kinakausap ko at sinasabihan na wala kayong kakampi at wala kayong kakampihan, kaya gawin nyo lang trabaho nyo,” said Aquino, who claimed to have suspended a lot of his officials when proven to have committed mistakes in the officiating.
“May review and evaluation kami after every game. Pag may nakita kami na mali o kakaiba sa mga pito, papatawag namin mga referees to hear their side, then we come out with a balanced and fair decision,” he said.
Aquino feels his departure from the PBA was part of God’s bigger plans.
“Siguro blessing ito na nawala ako sa PBA at nakapagtayo kami ng bagong liga. Kasi dun ko nakita, mas marami pa pala kami pwedeng gawin at tulungan, something na di namin magagawa if nasa PBA pa rin kami, kasi nga limitado lang kami sa pag-referee,” he said.
Now on its third season, the NBL has 14 teams all made up of homegrown players and representing different cities, municipalities and provinces in the country.
“Dito, we try to implement a ‘no harm, no foul’ ruling kasi we believe na players should decide the outcome of the games, not us referees,” he said.