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Paolo Orbeta’s long and lonely road to redemption

Paolo Orbeta during the recent PBA Draft Combine

When Paolo Orbeta applied for the 2014 Gatorade PBA Draft, he sighed and waited for the storm that was to come.

You see, he was once infamously nabbed in an entrapment operation by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation allegedly for point shaving. Orbeta, who was in his final year of college eligibility that year in 2007, vehemently denies that. He also said that at the time of the arrest, he was merely walking out of what he felt was a bad situation and had no pay-off money on him.

He remembers several agents drawing their guns on him. How he was handcuffed and tossed in jail along with murderers, pickpockets and other criminals for several hours. How he was only given P15 to make a phone call to his worried father some nine hours after he should have been home. 

The case was tried, investigated and eventually dismissed. However, even as he was formally cleared of any wrongdoing, there was no mention of it in the media.

Copy of the court's dismissal of Orbeta's case

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“I was cleared by the investigating judge,” said Orbeta, who supplied the clearance from the Metropolitan Trial Court-National Capital Region Branch 72 dated March 27, 2008.

“I even got my degree (BS in Hotel, Restaurant, and Institution Management) and diploma from College of Saint Benilde. Siguro naman if I did something bad they would have kicked me out.”

Embarrassed and humiliated, Orbeta not only left the game he loved but also the country. He worked in for a hotel in the United States (Maine) where he was able to reflect on life.

But he decided to come back so he could be near his son and his family. And give that old basketball dream one more try.

“I don’t want to be 50 years old or older and suddenly regret not giving the draft a try,” he said while talking to the author at Serenitea in Little Baguio, San Juan. “This isn’t just for myself but also for my son, Graeme Rashleigh. How am I going to teach him how to always get back up from setbacks when I didn’t do it myself?”

His old college coach, Caloy Garcia, who now calls the shots for Letran, says that whatever Paolo was accused of “is all hinala.”

“But…” added Garcia, “everyone deserves a second chance. I sincerely believe that Paolo deserves a second chance. He’s had years to deal with this and maybe this is time to either reach for a dream or put some closure on some things.”

Everywhere he goes, he knows that people whisper behind his back. Some have no care and openly taunt him that his team won’t win because he will deliberately miss shots and throw the game.

Copy of Orbeta's diploma from St. Benilde, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management

Years ago, he would smart from the taunts. He held back his anger because he knew that any display of emotion would only make him a loser. That is partly why he left so he could learn how to steel himself.

It’s not an albatross for him as he has been able to provide for his family. “They’re like scars,” Paolo described of the whole episode.

“Even if it doesn’t happen (making the PBA), I will be at peace with my decision. No regrets. Besides, I have some other businesses to provide for my family.”

Orbeta currently runs a taxi service (with a growing line of eight cabs) and does hotel work for a multinational. “But basketball is my passion,” he admitted. “But I know that I have only one more shot at this.”

Last August 19, during the second day of the Gatorade PBA Draft Combine, Orbeta gave a good account of himself scoring six points (3-7 from the field), grabbing three rebounds, and dishing off two assists versus one turnover.

“It could have been better but given the circumstances, I am not complaining,” he assessed of his showing to the assembled pro coaches.

“It’s a tough situation,” said Alaska Aces assistant coach Louie Alas, whose Letran Knights once had to defend against Orbeta in the NCAA. “Pero dapat i-appreciate yung ginagawa niya dahil hindi madali. He deserves a second chance.”

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