CEBU CITY – Southwestern University (SWU) officially apologized for the fiasco created by the tampering of the birth certificates of five of its high school players in order to become eligible for the coming season of the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (Cesafi).
In a a press conference, the school through chairman of the board Chito Salazar assured the public the matter is being taken seriously by SWU officials and that an investigation is already underway.
He stressed incidents of ‘inappropriate behavior’ and ‘unethical practices’ will not be tolerated under his watch and will be dealt with accordingly.
“We will endeavor to clean up our athletics program and make sure that there are no more incidences of inappropriate behavior, of unethical practices, falsification, extortion or corruption. For Phinma education, integrity and professionalism are core values,” said Salazar.
Head coach Rey Lubguban and players Elber dela Cerna Catinggan, Reynaldo Obarco Jr., Mark Anthony Quilab, Andy Jones Turno, and Edwin Abo-abo were banned from ever competing in the league for falsifying documents in order to be declared eligible for the Cesafi juniors basketball tournament this season.
SWU athletic director Ryan Aznar presented the papers to the media.
In one such document, the number “0” was made to appear like an “8” which meant the player could actually be eight years older than his declared age.
The school, through their legal counsel, Godwin Manginsay, admitted it was remiss in identifying whether the documents submitted for screening were tampered with or not, but implicitly emphasized that cheating was never intentional on the part of the school.
“We also have to admit that we did not have the capability to determine whether these documents were legitimate or not. They presented to us documents that were authentic in form but there were some tampering done that escaped our scrutiny,” said the lawyer.
It was not intentional. SWU would never participate in such a thing.”
The plan to mislead the league was uncovered during an investigation headed by league commissioner Felix Tiukinhoy on Monday.
Tiukinhoy later shared the players themselves admitted to the wrongdoing.
According to Maginsay, the school decided to revive its high school basketball program sometime last year. In April, Lubguban, a former SWU Cobra, was endorsed to become head coach and at the same time, was given authority to recruit players.
The school insisted it knew nothing of Lubguban’s plans.
Following the mess, the school dissolved its high school basketball program and has withdrawn its participation from the league this season. The move was made official in a correspondence sent to Tiukinhoy by school vice president for student life, Gilbert Magno Braganza.
“As a result of this unfortunate development, we have decided to dissolve the high school basketball team and withdraw from this year’s tournament until such time we conduct our own investigation into this disturbing matter, enforce our own sanctions on those involved, and establish a team that meets all the rules of the tournament as well as embodies the true ideals and vision of the school,” Braganza said in the letter.
The SWU official though, asked for patience on the matter as the school remains in a management transition process after education conglomerate Phinma, which operates numerous schools all over the nation, acquired majority shares in SWU last month.
The erring players have already been sent home to their respective provinces while Lubguban remains in Cebu until the investigation is over.
Aznar also added that for now, the school will be focusing on developing its grassroots basketball program.