Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, Chair of the Senate Committee on Sports, has called for stronger measures against game-fixing, emphasizing that government intervention may be necessary to ensure the integrity of sports.
Proposed measures against game-fixing and also promoting professionalism in sports have been raised before the public hearing of the Senate Committee on Sports, joined with the Committee on Games and Amusement on Wednesday, February 7 which Go presided over.
“Kung mahaluan ng anomalya, pandaraya o maging korapsyon ang kahit na anong sport, madudungisan po yung larong mismong ini-enjoy ng kabataan. Mawawala na ang thrill eh kapag nahahaluan ng kalokohan. Madudungisan po ang imahe ng mga iniidolong sports champions ng ating mga kabataan,” Go maintained in his opening statement.
According to Go, sports is an integral part of Filipino culture. It is already embedded in the Filipino’s way of life. In fact, the Constitution mandated the State to promote physical education and encourage sports programs, league competitions, and amateur sports for the development of a healthy and alert citizenry.
“It is necessary to maintain and protect the integrity and sanctity of sports against dishonesty and corrupt practices such as game-fixing,” Go stressed.
“Alam niyo, fans who put their hopes on an athlete or team to win believing in the spirit of fair play are cheated by scheming individuals who influence the games to produce a pre-determined result,” he added further.
During the committee hearing, it was disclosed that the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) announced that they had flagged 47 players and team officials due to game-fixing. Other leagues have also stepped up efforts to protect the sanctity of their games.
“As a sports enthusiast and basketball aficionado, kinokondena ko ang ganitong pandaraya hindi lamang po sa basketball kundi pati na rin sa ibang sports. Nakakasira po ito ng tiwala ng ating mga kababayan sa sports at nagiging bahid ito sa imahe ng ating mga atleta,” Go underscored.
“Game-fixing taints the spirit of Filipino sportsmanship. Dapat po mapanagot ang mga taong nagsasamantala sa pagiging passionate ng mga Pilipino sa sports. Biktima dito hindi lang ang mga manunuod, kundi pati na rin ang ating mga atletang tapat sa laro at ang imahe ng Philippine sports,” he added.
Recognizing the critical role of sports in fostering camaraderie, sportsmanship, discipline, teamwork, and national pride, Go said that he is committed to continuing his support for the sports sector and preserving its sanctity to the best of his capacity.
“The proposed measures in today’s agenda aim to institute a law against game-fixing and promote professionalism in sports. No one would be willing to step forward and offer legitimate proof of game-fixing, sino ba namang aamin. It is through this legislation that we encourage witnesses to step forward. The bill also proposes stiffer penalties against those involved in game-fixing,” the senator highlighted.
The Senate Sports Committee discussed Senate Bills No. 40, 1560, 1641, 1855, 2100, and House Bill No. 4513, which was approved in the third and final reading by the House of Representatives back in November 2022. This legislative effort is crucial to establishing a legal framework that addresses and sufficiently penalizes game-fixing activities within the sports sector.
“We are also here to determine how these bills would promote the true spirit of fair play and athletic excellence and to monitor the roles of agencies and organizations to ensure that we attain such objectives,” he added.
Go then encouraged athletes to continue playing with dignity, adhering to the principles of fairness and respect that form the foundation of true sportsmanship.
He said, “To our athletes, I encourage you to always play with dignity. Huwag n’yong hayaan na mabahiran ng masamang imahe ang sport na inyong minahal. Hindi lang po basketball, sa lahat po ng sports. Our players deserve the benefit of the doubt. And we are here to protect sports so that it remains (as) a source of inspiration to Filipinos.”
According to a 2022 report of Sport Radar, a sports integrity firm, the Philippines had 37 matches deemed suspicious. The country ranked second in Asia behind China and above Thailand.
“Alam niyo tulad po ng golf, mas masarap pong manalo kapag pinaghirapan at pinagpawisan ninyo po ‘yan. Mas importante ang integridad. Like sa golf which is a gentleman’s game, mahirap manalo ka sa golf kapag dinadaya mo, para mo na ring dinadaya ang sarili mo na nakakuha ka ng trophy na hindi mo naman pinaghirapan at pinagpawisan,” he explained.
Go stressed that the use of statistics in sports is beneficial to athletes and teams to improve their performance. However, this should not be used to taint the integrity of the games.
“‘Yung statistics ng player, pwede niyang gawing basis to further his training. However, pwede ring gamitin ng mapang-samantala… Merong mga betting at nagpapapusta. ‘Yun ang gusto nating tingnan dito. Nakakapagtaka dahil minsan napi-predict nila ang resulta, yung mga odds na naririnig natin … ang problema yung sinasadya po na ibigay yung laro. ‘Yan po ang gusto nating maiwasan. Napagdududahan tuloy na merong rigging,” he shared.
The senator further stressed the role of sports in nation-building especially in molding the youth into productive citizens.
“Ako naman mismo, ini-encourage ko talaga na maglaro ng basketball o anumang larangan ng sports… Isa po yan sa paraan para ipagpatuloy ang sinimulan ni dating pangulong (Rodrigo) Duterte na labanan ang iligal na droga through sports. Get into sports, stay away from drugs to keep us healthy and fit. Bilang Chairman din po ng Committee on Health, konektado po ang health d’yan, kapag tayo ay physically fit, tayo ay magiging healthy at hahaba po ang ating buhay,” he explained.