MANILA - “Do a Pacman and knock out illegal sports gambling and game-fixing!”
This was the appeal of House Minority Leader Bienvenido Abante Jr. to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and other concerned authorities, after Sen. Manny Pacquiao suspended a team in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) over evidence that its personnel and players were part of a game-rigging scheme involving the league's game results.
“It is high time for law enforcement to go after groups and individuals involved in illegal sports betting activities, especially those that engage in game-fixing and other related schemes in Philippine basketball leagues,” Abante said Thursday.
Abante, a staunch anti-gambling advocate, said that the scheme Pacquiao uncovered “proves that gambling, especially sports betting, corrupts everything it touches.”
“Gambling corrupts the soul and spirit of competitive sports. It corrupts our citizens, some of whom start betting on these games when they are very young,” lamented the legislator.
The House leader lauded Pacquiao “for taking decisive action to protect the MPBL from the corrupting influence of sports betting.”
“Matagal na rampant ang sports betting na 'yan. Puwede ka pumusta sa mga laro ng PBA (Philippine Basketball Association), sa NBA, at kahit sa mga liga ng eskuwelahan, ang UAAP at NCAA,” said the solon.
(Sports betting has been going on for a long time. You can bet on PBA, NBA, school leagues, UAAP, and NCAA games.)
“I have received reports that bets can be as small as P1,000 and as large as millions of pesos. If millions of pesos are on the line, then it is not surprising that there will be those who will try to influence the results of these games,” added Abante.
After suspending the MPBL’s SOCCSKSARGEN Marlins, Pacquiao revealed players and officials in the MPBL who take part in such game-fixing schemes are paid as much as P20,000 a game.
Abante said that other sports leagues should take their cue from the boxing champion and take steps to ensure their players, officials, and referees are not approached and paid off by syndicates.
“It is sad to hear words like ‘luto’ and ‘benta’ used by fans, but sometimes you cannot blame them because there have always been suspicions that this happens––but nothing is really done about it. My hats off to Senator Pacquiao for having the guts to do the right thing,” said the lawmaker.
“Luto” is a term used by fans that accuse referees of favoring one team over the other to “fix” a game. “Benta” is used to describe a player who engages in point-shaving schemes by underperforming in a game.
“Gambling is at the root of these shady schemes. Attack the former and you can eliminate the latter,” he said.