UST’s Dela Cruz maintains innocence

GlobalPort Batang Pier coach Pido Jarencio expressed support for his successor at UST, Bong Dela Cruz, who is in the middle of a storm over allegations of physical and verbal abuse to his players and game-fixing rumors.

Jarencio, who coached the Tigers from 2006 to 2014, asked the public to suspend judgment on Dela Cruz pending the result of the ongoing investigation by the UST administration.

“I feel for him. He’s been vilified with all the allegations and rumors that have not been proven yet. We have to be fair to the person. Let’s wait for him to air his side. In due time, he will speak,” Jarencio told FOX Sports in Filipino during the Spin.PH’s Sportsman of the Year Awards Night at the Marriott Hotel last Saturday.

On Monday night, Dela Cruz broke his silence on the issue with an official statement released to media outlets, maintaining his conscience is clear and that he will air his side before the investigation body.

“My conscience is clear but if I have to explain myself, I’d rather choose to air my side at the right place and proper forum. But in the past days, I felt that the defamation against me is getting out of hand and no longer just to discredit me as a coach but also as a person,” Dela Cruz wrote in Filipino.

Last week, UST’s official publication, The Varsitarian, disputed earlier reports by other news websites that the team has been disbanded and that Dela Cruz was sacked.

UST’s Institute of Physical Education and Athletics director Fr. Ermito de Sagon, O.P. said Dela Cruz and the whole coaching staff and management were only asked to stay out of the team practices while the investigation is ongoing.

In a follow-up report by The Varsitarian, four sources which the campus paper described as former UST players, a parent and team insider, accused Dela Cruz of verbally and physically abusing rookies and the younger members of the team during his two-year tenure.

Dela Cruz, whose contract is set to expire this April, decries the trial by publicity that he’s been getting.

“I’m deeply hurt with these developments because aside from me, my family is also getting affected by this trial by publicity because they knew, first hand, how I poured out everything I have – time and dedication – as head coach of our team,” Dela Cruz said in the statement.

He defended himself from the game-fixing allegations by stating that they defied the odds to reach the Finals when nobody gave them a chance following a dismal showing under his first season as coach in Season 77.

“In fact, before the UAAP Season 78 started, nobody thought that we can reach the Final Four. But because of the unity of our team along with our coaching staff, we reached the Finals which was more than what many expected from us,” Dela Cruz said.

“I am hoping that they will not implicate our university (UST) whose only goal is to look after the welfare of the students,” Dela Cruz said.

While he never directly addressed the allegations of physical and verbal abuse hurled against him, Dela Cruz asked the public to respect his privacy and his decision to remain silent until he airs his side before the investigation body.

“I am hoping that you will respect my decision,” Dela Cruz ended.