La Salle uncovers ineligible player, to surrender trophy
- Joaquin M. Henson () - October 12, 2005 - 12:00am
In a voluntary gesture of fair play, De La Salle University is surrendering last year’s University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s senior basketball trophy and forfeiting its second place finish this season after confirming the ineligibility of a player who joined the varsity in 2003.

The player’s identity was withheld by school officials "to protect his privacy in the meantime that we are still in the process of establishing his own culpability, or of any others, in this sordid matter."

Danny Jose of the La Salle sports development office personally brought a letter explaining the school’s decision to UAAP president Fr. Maximino Rendon of Adamson University yesterday. The letter was signed by La Salle system president Bro. Armin Luistro and La Salle Manila executive vice president Dr. Carmelita Quebengco.

Uncovering the player’s ineligibility came by accident, said La Salle representative to the UAAP Board Lito Tanjuatco.

"Over a month ago, registrars of different schools got together and discussed the disturbing incidence of high school students using fabricated documents, including those supposedly from the DECS (Department of Education, Culture and Sports), to gain eligibility for college," said Tanjuatco. "The registrars agreed to look into the authenticity of hand-carried documents as opposed to documents that are transmitted from school to school. These relate to the tests administered by the DECS for a Philippine Educational Placement Test Certificate of Rating which qualifies a student to take a college entrance exam without showing a high school diploma or a transcript of records."

Tanjuatco said La Salle subsequently conducted its own investigation of students whose DECS certificates were hand-carried and found the player’s papers to be spurious. The player is in his third year on the varsity team.

"It is a painful admission," said Tanjuatco. "But the school has chosen to take the high moral ground on the issue."

The expose will likely spur other schools into taking the same initiative and looking into their varsity rosters so ineligible players are flushed out to avoid forfeitures and complications in the future.

Tanjuatco said the matter was brought up to Bro. Armin before Game 2 of the UAAP finals between La Salle and Far Eastern University (FEU) last Thursday. Although no confirmation of ineligibility had been made, Tanjuatco said La Salle director of sports development Bro. Roberto Casingal informed Fr. Rendon that an investigation was in progress.

La Salle coach Franz Pumaren was also told of the possible ineligibility but since no confirmation was made, decided to use his full roster in Game 2 which FEU eventually won to wrap up the crown.

In the letter to Fr. Rendon, Bro. Casingal said: "We are currently investigating the matter and we are determined to complete this at the earliest time possible. We recognize that the outcome may have serious consequences on our continued participation in the current tournament. While we are prepared to continue playing, we also deem it proper to advise you about this serious matter so you can guide us accordingly."

Tanjuatco said if La Salle won Game 2 and confirmation of the ineligible player was made before Game 3, the Archers wouldn’t have played the rubber match and would’ve conceded the title to FEU.

When the eligibility was later confirmed, Bro. Luistro and Dr. Quebengco immediately informed Fr. Rendon of the school’s findings.

In their letter to Fr. Rendon, Bro. Luistro and Dr. Quebengco said the player’s DECS certificate was not genuine.

"Relying on the presumptive validity of the official document submitted to the university registrar, the concerned player was admitted to study and continued to do so until we inquired on the authenticity of all hand-carried documents, especially those pertaining to admission credentials because of reports that several of such documents are forged and being used not only in our university but in others as well," said Bro. Luistro and Dr. Quebengco.

"While we will pursue our own internal investigation to get to the bottom of the scam, we are already informing you about the confirmation of the ineligibility of the concerned player. As a consequence, we realize, irrespective of our own ignorance of the forged document, that, under the UAAP rule, we will forfeit all the games where the ineligible player was in the lineup. The concerned player became a member of our men’s basketball team in Season 66 through the present one. We will abide by the rule that binds all the member universities including returning the Season 67 championship trophy and forfeiting being second place this year and/or by whatever decision the UAAP Board will make on this matter."

Tanjuatco said there appears to be no concrete proof that the DECS was involved in tampering the player’s documents.

In a press statement, La Salle said it will always uphold the spirit of fair play and true sportsmanship and will never condone cheating in any form. "The university vows to undertake the most exhaustive internal investigation on this matter to prevent the same from besmirching the good name of La Salle and La Sallians everywhere," the statement added.

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