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Game- fixing

October 9, 2008

What does Philippine basketball, most especially collegiate basketball, and the National Basketball Association (NBA) have in common as of recent times? Both are sure to have been well-loved by fans and basketball aficionados all over the world because of their competitive, exciting, and fast-paced nature. However, what most of us do not completely understand about basketball – undoubtedly the world’s most loved sport – is that gambling and corruption will always find a way to creep into the basketball world, not only damaging its reputation as a sport but also that of its the athletes and even the officials involved in the game.

Game fixing, also called match-fixing, is often motivated by agreements with gamblers. However, teams and other competing squads may purposefully perform worse than expected in order to secure favorable guarantees such as, in common basketball terms, getting the rights for higher draft/lottery picks, better playoff or semifinal chances, more favorable playing schedules and opponents, and many others more.

Let us not look farther and see how the issue of game fixing in Philippine college ball has “awarded” its fair share of intrigues, impurities and deliberate fraud.

Last July 24, Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws’ top gun Marnel “Mac” Baracael was shot by a still unidentified assailant outside the FEU gym, at the corner of Morayta and R. Papa streets near PhilTrust bank to be specific. The first news of the incident broke out in the web through several hours after the shooting mysterious occurred.

FEU Tamaraws' power forward Mac Baracael (photo obtained from

FEU Tamaraws

Many were shocked and surprised by the said incident, including Baracael’s family, team mates, coaches, and the rest of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) followers, the intercollegiate tournament to which Baracel was playing. Speculations from initial reports about the shooting incident revealed that the motive for the shooting was initially “to punish him for disclosing the activities of a mysterious cabal of cheats in the FEU Tamaraw basketball squad”. Quoting from a news article dated July 26, 2008 and published on

“According to several unimpeachable sources in the university, Baracael earned the ire of a syndicate after he allegedly squealed on the existence of the cheats in the FEU team a few months ago.

The sources declined to say if any of the FEU players was part of the syndicate, which apparently dictated the outcome of matches played by the Tamaraws as early as last season’s University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) tournament. Not one of the sources revealed how he learned about the scam.

“Nag-squeal si Baracael sa mga taong involved” [“(Baracael squealed on the people involved in the scam”] said one source, a school official. “Ang nangyari, binalikan siya.” [What happened was that they got back at him.”]

The same source said Baracael was lucky to survive the attack which, “by its looks, was meant to silence him…”

Barely three months after the freak incident, Baracael’s case remains to be unsolved and authorities have yet to conclude the real motive for the attempt made on the 6-foot-4 power forward’s life, or even come up with leads or suspects. However, Baracael was still able to recover and suit up for the Tamaraws for their last few semifinal matches.

Two fellow FEU basketball players were also associated with game-fixing allegations, although none of it was proven. Last year, forward Alfred Guerilla was cut from the FEU roster after being linked to a game-fixing incident. Former FEU lefty Jeff Chan, now playing for the Red Bull Barakos in the pros, was also said to have been associated with game-fixing incidents.

Another similar incident, though not in the same degree as the what Baracael has suffered, was the issue of game-fixing syndicates hounding Ateneo de Manila University’s premier point guard Chris Tiu. It even came to a point when Tiu’s parents even hired bodyguards for him to ensure his safety off the court. A news report published by dated September 21, 2008 wrote:

Chris Tiu led the Ateneo Blue Eagles to their most recent championship crown against archrivals De La Salle Green Archers in te UAAP's 71st season

Chris Tiu led the Ateneo Blue Eagles to their most recent championship crown against archrivals De La Salle Green Archers in te UAAP

“On the eve of the first game, drama and controversy continued to stalk the rivalry as the family of Ateneo star Chris Tiu has reportedly hired bodyguards to look after the safety of their son, a reliable source told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Saturday.

The decision, a source close to the family said, was reached after several unidentified people reportedly tried to approach Tiu in several instances.

The source did not elaborate on who the people were and what they wanted, but said they started stalking Tiu early last week. The source said the Tiu family did not want a repeat of the Mac Baracael case…”

Over at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) front, San Beda’s 6-foot-8 Nigerian center was reportedly picked up by Philippine National Police personnel for questioning last September 14, 2008 after a dismal performance in their 65-63 overtime win against the Colegio de San Juan de Letran Knights during the final match of the second round of eliminations. San Beda College officials kept mum on the incident, denying the rumors that seemingly hampered their campaign towards the concluding parts of the tournament. However, everything have been somewhat settled as the Red Lions claimed their third straight NCAA championship title, with Ekwe bagging his second Most Valuable Player (MVP) award to end his basketball career donning a red-and-white jersey.

Two-time NCAA MVP Sam Ekwe

Two-time NCAA MVP Sam Ekwe

Last year, on August 01, 2007, College of Saint Benilde cager Paolo Orbeta was nabbed, along with three other cohorts, by National Bureau of Investigations (NBI) operatives after an entrapment operation directed to address the issue of point-shaving in the NCAA.

In the NBA, Tim Donaghy, a game official (a referee) was sentenced to a 15-month imprisonment after being convicted of gambling after “taking thousands of dollars from a professional gambler in exchange for inside tips on games (betting information), including some matches he officiated.

Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy was charged of gambling and sentenced into 15-month imprisonment

Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy was charged of gambling and sentenced into 15-month imprisonment

Game-fixing has been a “poisonous” infiltration in the sporting world – whether in the collegiate, the amateur, or the professional ranks. This does not only happen in basketball, but also on any other sport, such as football, boxing, or baseball matches. It disgraces not only the players, the teams, and the officials involved in such events, but most especially the nature of the game as a competitive, well-disciplined, and dignified competition.


A Calling of Sorts

August 13, 2008

I have been eagerly anticipating the ­developments on the abduction of ABS-CBN news anchor Ces Oreña-Drilon. Her cameraman Jimmy Encarnacion, their driver Angelo Valderama, and Mindanao State University professor Octavio Dinampo by the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu since June 05.

Being a journalism student, I have always been both awed and frightened by the exploits of journalists sent to perilous assignments. I have always imagined myself being sent to war-stricken places to cover the news just like them. I have always been thrilled by the rush of things in the course of a journalist’s work on the filed, and at the same time scared of the possible things which might come.

At the outset, ABS-CBN News Head Maria Ressa requested editors fro the print and broadcasting industry to temporarily hold their news stories about the plight of Drilon and company, saying that their premature disclosure might put the captives’ lives in great danger. But as soon as some media outfits began letting out stories in the public, news of yet another journalist held in captivity by rebel groups occupied the front pages of newspapers in the succeeding days. It was all over the Internet, as well as in news programs in the radio and television. It became the talk of the town in a snap.

Drilon’s kidnapping has proven the true value of media in the society. It opened our eyes to almost everything – violence, poverty, politics, and many others. It struck our awareness of the harsh reality lurking out there which we won’t be able to evade no matter what we do. It highlighted the great danger and risks involved in the media people’s profession; the extents they go and the limits they defy just to give us a clear picture of how the world really looks like.

If not for the media’s persistence, we would not have known about the minor the Abu Sayyaf rebels are employing in their group. Children as young as 12 years old, or probably younger, have not been spared from engaging themselves in armed insurrection for whatever cause their elders have been fighting for. Instead of going to school to enrich their minds and hone their skills, these children are educated about aggression and violence at a very young age. Instead of learning how to read and write, they are taught how to load rounds of ammos and fire guns and rifles. Their spirits should be nurtured with love and loyalty to the country, not hatred and division, for these are what will contribute to their well-beings.

If not for the media’s vigilance, we would not have known of the poverty that prompted these rebels to revolt. We would not have known of the lack of livelihood projects and sufficient industries in the far south that has been driving these people to resort to armed rebellion. We would not have realized how grim their situations are.

If not for the media’s constant reminders, journalists themselves would not even realize the holes in the practice of their profession that have been left gaping. They would not have paid attention to addressing solutions to the gray areas in the course of their works’ completion.

Undoubtedly, one cannot prove, or even justify, that there is still objectivity in the practice of journalism here ion the country today. The mere fact that the so-called “news management” carried out by ABS-CBN in requesting for a news blackout with regard to the kidnapping of Drilon and company already emphasizes a particular news organization’s primary concern. Does the public ultimately deserve their right to information in cases like this, despite possibly putting the abductees’ life in great danger?

The peaceful release of Drilon’s group does not guarantee a closure on this incident, or to some other similar cases. The negotiations have not been entirely successful in the first place. The media have been there as the public’s eyes and ears, shedding light on what concerns the welfare of the majority. In my opinion, the media served its purpose with all sincerity and dignity.

Those in power should set their eyes on more important matters other than planning way ahead of time for their 2010 election bids. There is still much work to accomplish, and the time to start fulfilling their jobs “efficiently” is now.

A sense of urgency in answering the needs of our ailing society is greatly needed. Nothing will be better for them than to be remembered as leaders who championed the cause of the masses, rather than as politicians who lost steam at the height of the country’s battle.

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August 27, 2007

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