“Lagyan ng ngipin ang batas”—Bong Go calls for efforts to uphold integrity in sports as he proposes stricter penalties to combat game-fixing

“Lagyan ng ngipin ang batas”—Bong Go calls for efforts to uphold integrity in sports as he proposes stricter penalties to combat game-fixing

SENATOR Christopher “Bong” Go, during a public hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Sports on Wednesday, March 20, expressed support for proposed reforms aimed at eradicating game-fixing in Philippine sports, highlighting the need for a multi-pronged approach, combining legislative action, regulatory enhancement, and cultural shifts within sports communities.

This came on the heels of Senator Jinggoy Estrada‘s disclosure of 47 players and officials indefinitely banned by the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) for alleged involvement in game manipulation during a separate Senate committee hearing on February 7.

During the hearing, Go expressed concern that the Games and Amusement Board (GAB) may not have enough “teeth” to address game-fixing adequately. He then suggested legislative action to ensure the effective sanctioning of those undermining the sport’s integrity.

“Kaya bubuuin natin itong batas na ito… ‘yung ngipin, kailangan… Sang-ayon kayo na lagyan pa ng ngipin itong ating batas, increase penalties, increase… imprisonment. Are you in favor of this?” the senator asked GAB.

Given the inherent challenges in proving game-fixing allegations beyond a reasonable doubt—a standard required in criminal law—GAB Chairman Richard Clarin pointed out the necessity of a law with “better teeth” while also enhancing capabilities of enforcement agencies to investigate such cases.

Go revealed in his opening statement the reluctance of witnesses to testify against game-fixing practices, which significantly hampers the ability to prove such allegations. Go pointed out, “Natatakot din sila kaya dapat silang proteksyunan.”

“Sabi mismo ng NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) na mahirap patunayan ang game fixing kaya malaking tulong ang pagkakaroon ng witness na magte-testify mismo paano nila ginagawa iyong pagmanipula sa mga games,” he added.

He then called for enhancing the legal framework to deter game-fixing effectively while also protecting witnesses to encourage them to come forward.

“Nandirito po tayo para mapag-aralan ‘yung batas. Tutulungan niyo po kami na mas mapaayos, lagyan ng ngipin, at maiwasan po itong game fixing. Maaaring walang pangil ang kasalukuyang batas para matakot ang mga game-fixers,” he said.

Meanwhile, the senator also expressed concern over the financial treatment of referees in certain leagues, where the inadequacy of their compensation might push them towards involvement in game-fixing.

Go asserted, “Isa rin ito sa aspeto na dapat nating tignan dahil baka kaya sila nai-involve sa game fixing ay dahil sa maliit lang ang nakukuha nila at nate-tempt sila dito sa malaking offer, kung totoo mang meron ngang game fixing.”

The hearing shed light on the precarious position of referees, particularly in MPBL, with Commissioner Kenneth Duremdes disclosing, “‘Yung per game lang po mga referees sa MPBL,” contrasting the monthly salaries and allowances received by Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) referees.

Suggestions for improving the situation included implementing a standardized recruitment and training process for referees across all leagues and ensuring their compensation reflects their critical role in sports integrity.

Meanwhile, Go delved into the MPBL’s disciplinary system, specifically the implementation of yellow and red card measures for those implicated in game-fixing.

Duremdes mentioned that decisions on disciplinary actions, including issuing yellow and red cards, are based on reports from Sports Radar—their integrity service provider—player statistics, team performance, and observations made during games to determine if disciplinary action is necessary.

Go underscored the necessity of a fair and just approach in penalizing players involved in game manipulation, acknowledging the delicate balance between punishing the guilty and safeguarding the careers of potentially innocent athletes.

“So, ‘yung ngipin ang kailangan. Pero, in fairness naman, sa lahat ng players na nawalan ng hanapbuhay, kawawa naman kung hindi totoo talaga. Gusto talaga natin malaman ‘yung katotohanan,” asked Go.

“Parusahan ang dapat parusahan. At ‘yung wala namang kinalaman talaga, malas lang talaga, o may problema lang nung panahon ‘yun, ay bigyan po natin ng tsansa. Let’s be fair to everybody,” Go remarked.

Senator Jinggoy Estrada likewise expressed his concerns about the potential impact of such disciplinary measures on players’ futures.

Meanwhile, Go, a sports enthusiast, particularly a basketball fan, lamented the erosion of sportsmanship and the genuine thrill of the game due to the scourge of game-fixing.

“As a sports enthusiast and basketball aficionado, I condemn game fixing not only in basketball, but in all sports. Nakakasira po ito ng tiwala ng ating mga kababayan sa sports at nagiging bahid ito sa imahe ng ating mga atleta kung napapasukan po ng game fixing,” lamented Go.

The senator aimed to address the perpetrators and ensure that innocent parties wrongly implicated in such scandals are given a platform to clear their names.

“Dapat managot ‘yung mga taong nagsasamantala sa pagiging passionate ng mga Pilipino sa sports. Biktima dito hindi lang ang mga manonood, kundi pati na rin ang ating mga atletang tapat sa laro at ang imahe ng Philippine sports,” said Go.

In his concluding remarks, Go emphasized the collective responsibility of stakeholders in sports to uphold integrity: “The committee will further study the bills and consult the stakeholders in the drafting of the committee report. I-harmonize natin ito, pagandahin natin.”

“Ang aim po ng batas na ito ay ating bigyan ng ngipin at maiwasan na po ang game-fixing at mas mapaganda pa ang competition dahil ang Pilipino po ay kilalang-kilala bilang basketball fans. Bigay natin sa kanila… what is due sa ating mga basketball fans. ‘Yung thrill ng laro and sportsmanship,” concluded Go.


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