By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Members of the Gilas Pilipinas found allies in senators who defended them from critics following their brawl with the Australian Boomers at the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers in the Philippine Arena Monday night.
Senators took to Twitter their sentiments on the free-for-all incident between Philippines and Australia that marred the FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers last night.
Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, chairman of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), said he stands by the national team.
“It was an unfortunate event but I stand by the Gilas team on this. One may criticize how the game ended, but the true test of a fan is to stick with his team win or lose, through thick and thin,” Angara said in a statement.
The senator, a basketball enthusiast, said he understands that the players had to “stand up for each other.”
The SBP, as the country’s national sport association for basketball, has authority over the Gilas Pilipinas.
Despite admitting that the match “got out of hand,” Angara said the incident could have been prevented “if the referees had tightened officiating to better control the game.”
He, however, clarified that those involved in the brawl should be accountable for their actions. He maintained that the incident was “an isolated event” and Filipinos remain “the most hospitable race.”
“Let me make this crystal clear: sanctions must be meted out, apologies extended as true sportsmen would, nonplayers who joined the melee should be punished, and above all, lessons (should be) learned so that this should not happen again,” Angara said.
Meanwhile, Senate President Vicente Sotto III blamed the scuffle on Australian players, who, he said, bullied Gilas Pilipinas in their home court.
“I watched the entire game unlike those armchair critics. Were we wrong? We were wronged! And we refuse to be bullied!” Sotto tweeted.
Senator Joel Villanueva agreed with Sotto, saying that while the brawl was unfortunate, the foreigners taunted the Gilas players despite their lead.
“I second the motion of SP (Senate President). We can’t be bullied and be disrespected in our own land,” he said, responding to Sotto’s post.
“Unfortunately, the game ended in a brawl. Can you really blame our Gilas players, down 25+ points these guys were still taunting, then the solid elbow off Pugoy’s face?” Villanueva lamented, referring to Gilas’ Roger Pogoy.
For Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito, the match was filled by tension since the warm-ups, pointing to an Australian player as the culprit of the brawl.
“Daniel Kickert of Australia was the one who shoved Matthew Wright during warm ups. He was also the one who gave the elbow to Roger Pogoy’s blind side that started the brawl. Dirty and arrogant player,” Ejercito said.
“Not defending the Gilas but that is utter disrespect and inappropriate as the game hasn’t even started. Australians were taunting the players and crowd,” he added.
But Sen. Francis Pangilinan said that while the Filipino players did not start the fight, they, too, had fault. He called for parties to apologize over the incident.
“Maaring totoo na hindi tayo ang nag-umpisa nito ngunit hindi rin dapat nauwi sa free-for-all na suntukan. Nagkulang lahat. May pananagutan ang bawat isa (It may be true that we did not start this but this should not have ended to a free-for-all. Everyone has their shortcomings. Each one is accountable),” Pangilinan said, also on Twitter.
“Players. Coaches. Officials. Maging mapagkumbaba, mag-sorry, humingi ng tawad, at humingi ng paumanhin (Be humble, say sorry, ask for forgiveness). Period,” he added.
Nine members of the Gilas Pilipinas were ejected from the match for taking part in brawl that erupted minutes before the end of third quarter.
After the incident, netizens, including personalities, weighed in on the brawl. Some had slammed the Filipino players, while other showed support.