Cardona says he’s on the level
- Joaquin M. Henson () - October 22, 2005 - 12:00am
Former La Salle senior varsity star Mark Cardona said yesterday he’s confident the Department of Education (DepEd) will verify his college eligibility based on the results of the Philippine Educational Placement (PEP) test he took in early 2001.

Cardona, 23, said he took the two-hour PEP test at the DepEd office in Pasig in January or February 2001 and after two weeks, got the results which he delivered personally to La Salle for his enrollment.

Cardona said nobody assisted him in taking the test or receiving the results. He added that a female student took the test with him and she is now enrolled at La Salle but declined to identify her.

"Pasado ako sa
test," said Cardona. "At walang tumulong sa akin. I’m confident that the DepEd will verify I took the test and passed because that’s the truth. I want to clear my name kasi parang may deliberate effort to damage La Salle’s reputation. Wala akong kinalaman sa kaso nina Mark (Benitez) at Tim (Gatchalian). All I know is as far as my case is concerned, I took the PEP test and qualified for college."

As for claims by former National University (NU) coach Manny Dandan that he was not enlisted by the Bulldogs because his PEP test result was fake, Cardona said it’s a lie.

Cardona said in October or November 1999, he went to the NU gym with uncle Louie Cardona on the recommendation of then Mandaluyong Vice Mayor Dr. Ramon Guzman. He recalled a player Jeff Napa was in the gym.

The tryout was uneventful and lasted about two hours. At the time, Cardona was enrolled as a fourth year high school student at Jose Rizal University.

"Sabi sa akin ni
coach Dandan, bumalik na lang ako sa Jose Rizal," said Cardona.

No examination of his academic records took place. Besides, the tryout was in 1999 and Cardona took his PEP test two years later.

Cardona never finished his high school education at Jose Rizal. He left for the US in December 1999 and returned here the next year. After taking the PEP test and getting his college eligibility confirmed, he enrolled at La Salle in 2001. He played on the La Salle teams that won the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) seniors basketball championships in 2001 and 2004.

Cardona also said in fairness to La Salle coach Franz Pumaren, he was never involved in forcing any of the players to sign management contracts.

four years na naglaro ako sa La Salle, wala akong nakitang player na pinapipirma ng contract ni coach Franz," said Cardona.

Cardona said for some reason, he has been in the center of controversy even when he was playing at Carson City High School in Los Angeles. But he said he has always acquitted himself because the truth eventually comes out.

Now that he’s playing for Talk ‘N’ Text in the Philippine Basketball Association, Cardona said all he wants is peace of mind and to focus on his professional career. But he said he wants to clear his name of any scandal.

La Salle executive vice president Dr. Carmelita Quebengco said the other day the school, through the university registrar, has asked the DepEd to verify Cardona’s PEP test results.

Because he no longer is enrolled, Cardona was not in the list of six La Salle students whose PEP test certificates were submitted to the DepEd for verification last August. Of the six, four were cleared and two were found to be spurious. The two spurious PEP test certificates reportedly belong to former Jose Rizal high school teammates Benitez and Gatchalian who with Cardona, played on the La Salle team that won the UAAP crown last year.

"We asked DepEd to check (on Cardona’s records) but we don’t know when the results will be given to us," said Dr. Quebengco who formed a four-man fact-finding committee to get to the bottom of the PEP test scandal involving two La Salle players. "The DepEd records are by exam date not by name so it’s not easy to check if we do not know the exam date. In Cardona’s case, he has no PEP test certificate with us so we just gave the year of his entry to La Salle."

Dr. Quebengco said Cardona was entered in the La Salle database as having a PEP test certificate. "But he has no record of the certificate of rating in the files," she added. "He has a transcript of records from Carson City High School up to Grade 10."

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