WHY play basketball in the middle of a deadly pandemic?
In his fervent desire to toughen up his charges and be competitive to win the title amid these uncertain times, University of Santo Tomas coach Aldin Ayo crossed the line and put his players’ health and safety at risk.
The champion but controversial tactician will likely pay a dear price.
UST is probing the squad over its alleged training on a bubble at Ayo’s hometown of Capuy, Sorsogon City, a clear violation of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases’ health protocols in dealing with the coronavirus crisis.
The Games and Amusements Board, Department of Health, and the Philippine Sports Commission held a Zoom meeting with the UAAP, represented by Executive Director Atty. Rebo Saguisag, last Saturday to clear the air into the reported training and scrimmages done by the Growling Tigers since mid-June in Bicol.
As of Aug. 22, the Bicol region had 1,294 COVID-19 cases, with 595 recoveries and 17 deaths. In the same tally, Sorsogon has 130 cases, 49 recoveries, and two fatalities.
Videos showing UST players playing basketball surfaced last Saturday but were immediately deleted.
UST officials were a no show in the meeting but Saguisag said the school is already investigating the incident.
“We were informed that UST created a fact-finding committee to look into the matter and meantime asked to be excused from the proceedings,” Saguisag told Malaya-Business Insight.
“For our part, we iterate that the UAAP is committed in complying with provisions of the (IATF) guidelines on physical activities and sport, as well as the Joint Administrative Order issued by the PSC, GAB and the DOH on the resumption of sport. There is likewise no debate that the safety of the students is paramount,” he added.
Also part of the meeting were UAAP 83rd season president Emmanuel Calanog of La Salle, PSC national training director Marc Velasco, and DOH representative Rodley Carza.
“Today, we heard the news about the alleged breach of quarantine protocols by the UST Basketball Team in Sorsogon. Accordingly, we created a committee to investigate and to inquire into the matter,” UST said in a statement yesterday.
“While we adhere to the belief that physical activity can have a profoundly positive impact on the students’ physical and mental health, we believe that the undertaking should be done in compliance with the guidelines issued by the government. We always endeavor to support the concerted government effort to ensure that proper social and physical environments are in place.”
UST vowed to lower the boom after its probe.
“We wish to assure you that the University does not tolerate any form of violation of government regulation, and it responds promptly by taking the appropriate action.”
Saguisag said the league is giving UST a chance to explain its side.
“But part and parcel of elementary due process is the right to be heard. All agencies agreed to wait for the report of UST,” said Saguisag.
Under the joint administrative order from the GAB, DOH, and PSC, only pro league teams from the PBA, Philippines Football League, and Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3×3 and Olympic qualifiers and hopefuls are allowed to resume training.
“The JAO group of the DOH, GAB, and PSC met with UAAP officials and decided to allow UAAP to discuss with UST about the alleged unauthorized practice in Sorsogon,” GAB chairman Abraham “Baham” Mitra told Malaya-Business Insight.
“Atty. Rebo (Saguisag) said that UST is conducting its own internal probe and promised to report to UAAP soonest. The group agreed to remind everyone that the utmost importance is the safety of the players and students.”
Ayo could not be reached for comment yesterday.
In a statement, the PSC has also deferred to the UAAP to come up with an action.
“We were informed that the university concerned is now conducting their own investigation and that UAAP shall share information in the following days,” said the PSC.
“Above all considerations at this time, the safety of the athletes must always be paramount.”
Another meeting is set this Wednesday.
In a stunning turn of events that created a firestorm in the collegiate scene, last season’s
UST skipper CJ Cansino announced late last Thursday that he is leaving the team.
Last Friday, the 6-foot-2 Cansino, a former juniors’ MVP for the Tiger Cubs, said he was booted out of the team due to “defiance of authority.”
Cansino, 20, reportedly spoke on behalf of the team and asked Ayo to leave the province and return to his home in Valenzuela.
That led to a disagreement between Ayo and Cansino and eventually the departure of the versatile wingman from the Tigers’ camp.
Cansino moved to the University of the Philippines last Friday.