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DepEd to probe Palarong Pambansa cheaters: Athletes faked disability

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BAGUIO CITY — The Department of Education (DepEd) has vowed to shed light on the alleged cheating in the 2015 Palarong Pambansa, where two athletes, who joined the special games category for Persons with Disability or differently-abled children, reportedly turned out to be “normal” kids.

Undersecretary for Legislative Affairs, External Partnership, and School Sports Tonisito Umali said: “We will never tolerate this. Under the leadership of our new Palarong Pambansa Secretary General Assistant Secretary Revsee Escobedo and under Ma’am Liling Briones, we will look into this, we will investigate this and we will make all those responsible for this really unacceptable act, to be liable.”

While there had been issues of cheating in the past, with regards to age of the competing athletes, Umali said he never thought some athletes would go to the extent of faking disability to join special games.

“We will look into that. Ngayon lang namin naunawaan na mga bata na hindi naman po pala (It is only now that we realize that the kids are not) special children, they will make it appear (that they are special). That is really unacceptable. You could be assured that DepEd will act on this,” Umali said.

The official said safeguards have been set up to prevent cheating.

“The issue of cheating in Palarong Pambansa has been decreased to its very minimum. Halos wala na. Ito nakalusot po lamang ito (There’s almost none. This is an isolated case). This definitely is the exception rather than the rule,” he said.

Umali cited a national screening and accreditation committee, which has regional and district counterparts, which do the checking of the eligibility of the athletes competing in DepEd-facilitated sports competitions.

He added that athletes are required to submit an original copy of the birth certificate issued by the Philippine Statistics Authority to determine their age.

Athletes participating in the Palarong Pambansa should not be more than 18 years old.

For the elementary participants, if the athlete looks older than his age, the molars can be checked, he said.

According to Umali, there is a study saying that an elementary student who has a fifth molar could be more than 13 years old. (PNA)