(STAR) By Abac Cordero - The mud-slinging between the Billiards and Snooker Congress of the Philippines and the newly-formed Billiards Managers and Players Association of the Philippines has just turned nastier.

Yen Makabenta and Ernie Fajardo, BSCP chairman and president, presided over a press conference at noon yesterday to deny the charges being hurled against them by the BMPAP.

The two billiards officials also vowed to keep the BSCP working, running and functioning as the rightful and duly-recognized national sports association by the Philippine Olympic Committee.

“We will continue to perform our duties and we will remain committed to our programs,” Fajardo told those who packed the main function room of the Pantalan Restaurant along Manila bay.

Then Makabenta blasted the BMPAP for herding together the country’s top pool players last Thursday in a press conference that signaled the birth of the new billiards group.

“Little did they (players) know that the event was designed for a vicious attack against the BSCP. Several players have reported that they were just used by those who ‘stage-managed’ the event,” Makabenta said.

“They were not allowed to speak or ask questions. They heard nothing about a boycott. This kangaroo meeting is now being presented to the nation and the world as a players revolt against the BSCP.”

Makabenta refused to believe that Efren Reyes, Dennis Orcollo or Ronnie Alcano, three of the country’s best talents who are now with BMPAP, would hurl “absurd and silly charges” against his leadership.

“I can go on, player after player for I know them all personally – but the point is clear. This revolt is travesty. Our players have been manipulated into the frontlines of a naked and unprovoked attack on the BSCP.”

“The players are innocent in this conspiracy. We know who’s driving this war. They are the players’ managers – and they are actually just two, Perry Mariano and Aristeo (Putch) Puyat,” said Makabenta.

Those who are under Mariano include Alcano, the 2006 World Pool champion, 2007 runnerup Roberto Gomez, Doha Asian Games gold medalist Antonio Gabica, silver medalist Jeff de Luna and Orcollo, former World Pool League champion.

Puyat, on the other hand, sponsors players like Reyes, Django Bustamante and Alex Pagulayan.

Tony Baranda, BSCP director, took the floor and accused Mariano and Puyat of holding hostage the players who are under their fold.

“Let us not allow ourselves to be held hostage,” he said, citing many instances in the past that players are being prevented from representing the country in international competitions.

“Ilang beses na ‘yan that Filipino players are being prevented from performing their patriotic duties. No one owns these players. Walang may-ari ng mga players natin kundi ang Republika ng Pilipinas,” he said.

The BMPAP accused the BSCP of lack of transparency when it came to money matters, and accused Makabenta of using the BSCP to promote his own firm, Raya Sports, which is into staging pool events.

“We do not have to search very hard for the managers’ reasons. This is about money first and foremost,” said Makabenta .

Makabenta, a journalist by heart, said some BSCP officials had planned of stepping down this year.

“We need to devote more time to our respective businesses. And I wanted to finish my book on Philippine billiards. But now, in the face of this danger looming before our sport, we have all realized that this is not the time for stepping back or letting go.

“The menace is real. The future of Philippine pool is on the line. We are more determined that ever to stop this group who would bring our house, our sport to ruin. The predators in Philippine pool will not succeed,” Makabenta said.

Meanwhile, San Miguel Corp. (SMC), a chief backer of the sport, expresses its deepest concern on the issue between the billiards players with their managers and the Billiards and Snookers Congress of the Philippines (BSCP).

As a long-standing supporter of billiards in the Philippines, SMC has asked both parties to settle their differences amicably for the sport and its millions of fans.

At the same time, SMC has clarified that there is no agreement between Raya Sports and SMC for the latter to support the planned Asian 10-ball tour.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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