The entire Siquijor Mystics’ team, from coaching staff to the players, was banished for life from the Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup on Thursday for throwing its Wednesday game against the ARQ Builders-Lapu Lapu City in Alcantara, Cebu.
The league suspended Joshua Alcober, Ryan Buenafe, Jojo Tangcay, Jan Penaflor, Gene Bellaza, Michael Calomot, Frederick Rodriguez, Jopet Quiro, Isagani Gooc, Miguel Castellano, Juan Aspiras, Peter Buenafe and Michael Sereno, together with head coach Joel Palapal and his staff following an investigation done by the technical committee.
“We assure everyone that this incident is an isolated case, a stern warning to all the teams that we will not tolerate this kind of action,” said Chief Operations Officer Rocky Chan, who later apologized in a Facebook live statement at the end of an early morning meeting.
The organizers also penalized Rendell Senining, an ARQ Builders’ wingman, who attempted left- and right-handed free throws in one trip to the line. Senining was suspended for the rest of the season and handed a P15,000 fine.
Senining’s teammates Vincent Tangkay, Reed Juntilla, Monbert Arong, Dawn Ochea, and Ferdinand Lusdoc, along with head coach Francis Auquico, were suspended for the rest of the first round, with the players fined P15,000.
Auquico was slapped a P30,000 fine, along with assistant coaches Jerry Abuyabor, Alex Cainglet, John Carlo Nuyles, Hamilton Tundag, and Roger Justin Potpot.
Chan warned of severe penalties in the future as a warning to the five remaining Visayas teams and the 10 squads in the Mindanao leg. Next time, erring teams will not only be punished with banishment, they will also be fined P1 million as well.
The controversial game was marred by air-balled free throws, botched fastbreak attempts, and mind-boggling turnovers. Both squads also attempted and missed an unusual number of free throws as Siquijor missed all 10 of their free-throw attempts, while allowing Lapu-Lapu to attempt 19 in 20 minutes of action.
The Games and Amusements Board was separately probing the incident.
Meanwhile, Chooks-to-Go president Ronald Mascariñas expressed his disappointment at what transpired during the game.
In a letter sent to the league’s Chief Operations Officer Rocky Chan, Mascariñas said that the game was a humiliation to the integrity of the league.
Chooks-to-Go decided to sponsor the league only a day before the Visayas Leg of the professional basketball league tipped off last April 9.
“As Title Sponsor of the Inaugural Conference of the Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup, Bounty Agro Ventures Inc. (BAVI) and its flagship brand Chooks-to-Go gave the Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup our full support because of our shared advocacy for Philippine basketball. However, we have witnessed with deeply disturbing concern how the quality and integrity of the games in the league have plunged steeply in just a week’s run,” opened Mascariñas’ letter.
“We just saw the obvious lack of passion and determination to play their best and win among the players in the match today between professional teams from Siquijor and Lapu-Lapu City. The level of performance on both sides was deplorable beyond belief and, unless explained otherwise, amounts to a willful lack of professionalism. And this is only, to say the least,” the sports patron who has backed other regional leagues like the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League and National Basketball League-Pilipinas continued.
“As a result, unflattering speculations are now circulating among viewers about the motives for such wanton neglect of all known rules and standards on professional basketball games the public has come to expect, and demand. To be blunt, suspicions of game-fixing, illegal activities, and a deliberate effort to defraud the league’s fans, patrons and supporters are now gaining currency. Unless strong action is taken, the damage the aforementioned match is causing to the image of Philippine basketball would be incalculable. To the league, it may be fatal.”
As title sponsor to the league, Mascariñas, who also owns a professional sports league of his own in Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3, demands full disclosure on the investigation and swift sanctions against all who have been deemed to be culprits in the incident.
“We have supported and lent our name to the league because we sincerely believed in your noble objective to provide a livelihood to deserving and promising basketball players amid the pandemic. We believed that the players have been blessed with a new and, currently, the only active league. We also believed that this will help rally and boost the nation’s morale in these difficult times,” he said.
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