From villain to hero? Really?

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    FINALLY breaking his silence, University of Santo Tomas coach Aldin Ayo insisted there was no truth to allegations that he violated the government’s strict COVID-19 health protocols when he brought the Growling Tigers to practice in his hometown in Capuy, Sorsogon City from mid-June to August.

    Ayo stuck to his claim that they went farming and dared his critics to go to his province so he could back up his claim.

    “It is understandable that many people will find it hard to believe that basketball players can also be engaged in farm work and training, and planting trees. But if it is the truth, then it is. For the truth is stranger than fiction,” Ayo said in a statement last Friday.

    “Come to my house and farm in Capuy, Sorsogon and see for yourself. For the harvest is plenty and the laborers are few,” he added.

    In a stunning twist, the Sorsogon City PNP and Gov. Francis “Chiz” Escudero last Wednesday ruled out Ayo from any liability in the alleged training bubble, saying UST secured all the necessary police documents before going to Capuy, declaring that they are not persons under monitoring (PUMs), did not have any COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days, were tested seven days prior to the trip, and secured all the necessary travel pass from the Joint Task Force COVID Shield.

    A 14-day mandatory home quarantine was also put in place before the team went on a “personal development farm training,” which was certified by the Capuy barangay captain, the PNP memorandum added.

    In his sworn statement, Ayo said his players engaged mainly in farm work in exchange for allowance, free meals, and free lodging.

    The players “were allowed to make use of a basketball court which is enclosed inside the living room of (Ayo’s) house where the players had individual training and not team practice,” the report said.

    Ayo stressed the training camp was held to help his charges in need amid the economic crunch inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “This is no ordinary time. Times are hard. Many athletes coming from the provinces have in fact gone back to farming due to the pandemic and community