MANILA – The House of Representatives on Monday approved on the third and final reading the measure that will expand the elements and will impose stiffer penalties for game-fixing in professional and amateur sports contests.

With an overwhelming 249 votes, the House approved House Bill (HB) No. 4513 seeking to impose up to PHP50 million fine or life imprisonment or both “if the offender is a member of a syndicate.”

Under the bill, game-fixing is defined as “any arrangement, agreement, scheme, or act or series of acts, wherein any person or persons, maliciously conduct or cause to be conducted any professional or amateur sports other than on the basis of the honest playing skill or ability of the players or participants or even deliberately limiting the skill or ability of any player or participant in a game, race, or sports competition in order to influence the process or to produce a pre-determined result for purposes of gambling, betting, or as part of a scheme to defraud the public on the conduct and outcome of the game.”

Proof of actual payment or receipt of money or any valuable consideration is not a requirement to constitute the crime of game-fixing but it shall be deemed a prima facie evidence of its commission.

“This proposed measure seeks to expand the elements constituting the crime of game-fixing and prescribing stiffer penalties to arrest the widespread illicit practice, and by so doing, to promote the true spirit of sportsmanship,” the bill read.

Other forms of game-fixing such as point-shaving, game machination and the act of wilfully abetting, aiding, or inducing any person to commit game-fixing and profiting from it are also penalized under the measure.

Point-shaving refers to any such arrangement, combination, scheme, or agreement by which the skill or ability of any player or participant in a game, race or sports competition to make points or scores shall be deliberately limited to influence the result in favor of one or the other team, player or participant therein.

On the other hand, game machinations refer to any other fraudulent, deceitful, unfair or dishonest means, method, manner or practice employed for the purpose of influencing the result of any game, race, or sports contest.

Under the measure, game-fixing is deemed committed by a syndicate if carried out by a group of three or more persons conspiring or confederating with one another to perform the prohibited acts specified in Sections 3 and 4 of the measure.

The bill also imposes the penalty of imprisonment from three years and one day to six years, or a fine of not less than P1 million but not more than PHP5 million, or both at the discretion of the court for violation of provisions of the law.

When the offender is an athlete, promoter, referee, umpire, judge, or coach, the penalty imposed is imprisonment from six years and one day to 12 years or a fine of not less than PHP1 million but not more than PHP5 million, or both.

Game-fixing is deemed committed by a syndicate if carried out by a group of three or more persons conspiring or confederating with one another to perform the prohibited acts.

If the offender is a public officer, whether elected or appointed, with the accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification from holding any public office, the maximum penalty shall be imposed.

The same level of penalty applies if the offender is an officer of a partnership, corporation, association, or any juridical entity, who directly participated, consented, or knowingly tolerated the game-fixing, as well as an alien, who would also be deported after serving his sentence.

Any person who proposes, attempts, or conspires to commit game-fixing shall suffer the penalty of imprisonment from one year to three years, or a fine of not less than PHP500,000 but not more than PHP1 million, or both.

Likewise, any person engaged in professional sports convicted by final judgment, or those in amateur sports convicted for the same offense for the second time, shall suffer perpetual disqualification to participate in any capacity in competitive sports in the country.

Whistle-blowers who voluntarily disclose information on, or assist in the prosecution of game-fixing shall be exempt from any liability and may be admitted to the Witness Protection Program.

The measure mandates the Games and Amusement Board (GAB) to revoke the licenses of professional athletes found guilty of game fixing, and the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) to remove athletes, coaches, or sports officials and disqualify them from any awards.

Likewise, the measure gives the Philippine Olympic Committee and the National Sports Associations the responsibility to remove offending athletes, coaches, and other sports officials from their respective rosters.

On the other hand, the Department of Education (DepEd) is mandated with the task of banning erring student-athletes, coaches, or officiating staff from participating in the Palarong Pambansa or other DepEd sports events.

Schools and athletic associations are mandated to ban athletes and other sports officials involved in game-fixing. (PNA)