by: Mickey Ingles
Disturbing reports of game-fixing have hit the Centro Escolar University (CEU) basketball team. According to news articles, the CEU Scorpions saw seven players removed from its line-up just a day before its PBA D-League quarterfinals against Go-for-Gold-CSB. The allegations of game-fixing have marred an otherwise impressive victory by CEU which played with a depleted roster. The school is currently investigating the players suspected of exchanging sports integrity for whatever paltry consideration. If found guilty—and it seems the likely outcome, according to Coach Derrick Pumaren—expect CEU to come down hard on the players.
While the school has the authority and the academic freedom to discipline these student-athletes as it pleases, the state can do so as well.
Game-fixing is a crime defined under Philippine Law. Presidential Decree No. 483 defines game-fixing as “any arrangement, combination, scheme or agreement by which the result of any game, races or sports contests shall be predicted and/or known other than the basis of the honest playing skill or ability of the players or participants.” The law recognizes that sports and games should be won or lost because of the skill or ability of the players—if anyone manipulates the game such that the result is predetermined, then that’s game-fixing.
P.D. 483 also criminalizes point-shaving and game machination. Point-shaving is similar to game-fixing, except that the intent of the schemes is to deliberately limit points or scores to influence the result of game. Point-shaving was the cheat-of-choice by some Boston College players who got involved with the mob in the late 70s.
Game machination is more of a catch-all provision, where the use of any other fraudulent, deceitful, or unfair means to influence the results of games, races, or sports contests is considered a crime. Doping is arguably game machination.
Details on how these players engaged in game-fixing are so far scant. But as can be seen in the wording of the law, the definitions of game-fixing, point-shaving, and game machination are quite broad and may well cover whatever hanky-panky these players were caught up with. If charged and found guilty under P.D. 483, the players can face jail time of up to six years and a fine of… wait for it… P2,000. Don’t laugh, P2,000 was a big amount way back in 1974 when P.D. 483 was issued.
Forty-five years on, the law still stands. Interestingly, Congress has sought to amend P.D. 483 and impose stricter penalties. Under House Bill 8204, an athlete faces six to twelve years in prison or a fine of up to P5,000,000 (or both) if convicted of game-fixing. If the athlete is involved in professional sports, he or she will be perpetually disqualified to participate in any sports in the country. If the athlete is engaged in amateur sports, then he or she faces perpetual disqualification if found guilty for the second time. Why there’s even a distinction between professional and amateur sports is beyond me—the integrity of sports should be maintained in any level.
In any case, H.B. 8204 has yet to be passed into law. Hence, the CEU student-athletes, if found guilty, may still play basketball sometime in the future as P.D. 483 does not include perpetual disqualification as a punishment. Of course, the rules of the basketball league or the association where these players may say otherwise and ban them outright.
Don’t do it, kids. In the words of Nick Nolte in Blue Chips, “you took the purest thing in your life and corrupted it, for what? For what?”
For what indeed.
Mickey Ingles is the editor-in-chief of Batas Sportiva. This article just hit the one-article-per-month goal of the site. Buzzah beatah. Woohoo.