GAB may sanction ‘Bata’ over viral incident

Photo by Ali Vicoy

Games and Amusements Board chairman Baham Mitra said pool legend Efren “Bata” Reyes may face sanctions after he was caught red-handed for an alleged violation of health protocols at a billiards place in San Pedro, Laguna.

"He's a GAB-licensee and we'll call him to shed light on what happened. And if he needs to be suspended, then he will be suspended for not following."

A viral video circulating on social media showed the police calling out players, including Reyes, and the spectators for failing to observe social distancing.

The 66-year-old billiards icon later clarified in an interview over DZBB that he was not arrested by the police but was only accompanying those who were involved to give "support” when they were invited to the barangay hall. Reyes said the individuals were allowed to return home immediately.

Lt. Col. Chitadel Gaoiran, Laguna Provincial Police spokesperson, also made it clear that "no arrest was made."

"'Di naman po inaresto. Dinala sa barangay pero kinausap lang kasi ang daming nanonood. Nawawala na ang social distancing (No arrest was made. They were taken and reprimanded to the barangay because the venue was filled with spectators. Social distancing was not observed)," said Gaoiran.

Still, Mitra is keen on reprimanding the multi-titled player.

Per protocols, huge social gatherings, especially without proper physical distancing, are prohibited. The  Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) had allowed non-contact sports such as golf, badminton, tennis, swimming, among others, in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) provided that minimum public health standards are observed.

Since Reyes is a senior citizen, he is discouraged to go outside his house and must have limited interaction unless of an urgent matter such as obtaining essential goods and services.

The player known as “The Magician” admitted that he wasn't wearing a face mask in-game due to difficulty with breathing, but insisted that he puts it back on while resting.

Reyes said they had received an initial warning from certain officials, but the police eventually came when the match was about to end. 

He added that  the police got furious over the fact that the audience scattered and ran away from the venue upon inspection, who was also attended by billiards great Francisco "Django" Bustamante as a spectator.

Learning the lesson, Reyes has a few reminders for the public.

"Kailangan sa susunod social distance na, kailangan 'wag dikit-dikit at hindi masyado maraming tao (Perhaps next time, spectators should practice social distancing with limited viewing only)," said Reyes.