“Do a Pacman and knock out illegal sports gambling and game-fixing!”

This was the appeal of Minority Leader Benny Abante Jr. to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and other concerned authorities, after Senator Manny Pacquiao suspended a team in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) after evidence showed that its personnel and players were part of a game-fixing that involved the results of MPBL games.

“Gambling corrupts the soul and spirit of competitive sport.”

“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,” the House leader on Thursday said.

Abante, a staunch anti-gambling advocate, said the scheme uncovered by Pacquiao, “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.

Abante 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. Pwede ka pumusta sa mga laro ng PBA (Philippine Basketball Association), sa NBA, at kahit sa mga liga ng eskwelahan, ang UAAP (University Athletic Association of the Philippines) at NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association),” said the solon.

“I have received reports that bets can be as small as one thousand pesos 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.

“My hats off to Senator Pacquiao for having the guts to do the right thing.”

After suspending the MPBL’s SOCCSKSARGEN Marlins, Pacquiao revealed players and officials in the MPBL who take part in such game-rigging schemes are paid as much as P20,000 per 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 term used by fans to refer to referees who favor one team in order 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,” said Abante.

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