This one got away from PBA

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    CALL it the one that got away in the PBA bubble.

    When the dust of battle settles at the Smart 5G-powered AUF Gym in Angeles City next month, no one will likely ever know who the culprit was in the “luto!” accusation incident that happened in Game 3 of the best-of-five semifinals duel between Ginebra and Meralco last Sunday night.

    Commissioner Willie Marcial said the league will no longer probe the incident where an unidentified person hollered the words “Ref, lutong-lutong ‘to ah!” at the 10:04 mark of the fourth quarter.

    Those words, suggesting that game officials were rigging the match, reverberated inside the closed-door and fans-less venue and were heard loud and clear on live national television and on live streaming on Facebook.

    With no proof of evidence such as videos or eyewitnesses, the PBA is letting the incident go, Marcial said.

    “Wala tayong makuha na ebidensiya. Hindi naman tayo ganoon na turu-turo lang or hinala lang,” Marcial was quoted as saying by online sports website Spin.ph.

    “Pangit naman iyon,” he added.

    The PBA chief warned the squads to be cautious with what their players, officials, and staff say during games. If and when a similar incident happens anew, Marcial said he will not hesitate to crack the whip.

    “Hindi lang sa Meralco kundi sa lahat ng teams na mag-ingat sila sa mga sinasabi nila.

    Dahil oras na malaman namin at mahuli namin na sila iyon, sigurado bibigyan ko sila ng malaking fine at baka may suspension pa,” Marcial said. “Sigurado nakatutok na kami ngayon sa kanila.”

    Probably one of the downsides of playing without a crowd due to the restrictions of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, the incident drew flak on social media.

    Fans assumed that Bolts veteran big man Reynel Hugnatan was the culprit since he was shown on screen complaining to a referee after the heckler shouted the words and was called for a technical foul.

    Hugnatan, however, swore it was not him.

    Marcial met with Meralco team manager Paolo Trillo at the league satellite office last Monday night and briefly tackled the incident.

    “Pina-alalahanan ko lang na respetuhin nila iyong laro. Respect the game,” Marcial said.

    “And ito para sa lahat ng teams. Ingatan nila ang mga sasabihin nila kasi (baka) detrimental to the league ang mga iyon. Just respect the game.”