Bubble burst: A timeline since CJ Cansino left the UST Growling Tigers

Ernie Sarmiento

CJ Cansino's untimely exit from the UST Growling Tigers gave color to what was a monotonous week in Philippine sports.

His unexpected removal from the team opened a can of worms, not only for himself, but the team and the University of Santo Tomas itself as a supposed UST bubble in Sorsogon emerged in what appears to be multiple violations of quarantine protocols.

Allegations from the event emerged in detail day-by-day, and forced the government to step in and lay down the facts.

Here is a day-by-day recollection of what has happened thus far with the UST bubble saga. This was last updated at 5:00 pm on September 9.

August 20

Cansino, who was team captain of the Tigers in UAAP Season 82, was unceremoniously removed from the team for reasons beyond his control. He left the alleged bubble in Sorsogon to go back to Manila, unsure of his basketball future.

"The moment na sinabi sa aking, 'CJ, you're off the team,' naisip ko, may kukuha pa kaya sa akin? Heartbreak talaga lalo sa akin kasi 'di ko alam kung matutuloy pa yung pangarap kong maging basketball player," said Cansino.

Despite his self-doubt, people know he will be of big help to any squad, as he averaged 8.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 2.7 assists in his two years with UST.

When news of his exit broke out, a social media storm erupted on a seemingly peaceful Thursday evening.

Numerous pitches on social media from his peers tried to woo Cansino to join their team.

Cansino also got calls from opposing schools such as the Ateneo Blue Eagles, FEU Tamaraws, Adamson Soaring Falcons, and the De La Salle Green Archers.

However, one school stood out amongst the numerous tweets that came his way that evening. Juan Gomez de Liaño of the UP Fighting Maroons told Cansino that the doors of Diliman are always open.

"Nowhere to go but???" Tweeted the combo guard.

Cansino surprisingly responded to the pitch, replying that he could join State U if he were to return to the team. Juan and brother Javi took the year off from the team to focus on their national team duties.

"Basta babalik ka," Cansino tweeted back.

August 21

That Friday morning, Cansino finally broke his silence through a statement, confirming that he had been removed from the team.

"Kung mabibigyan lang ako ng isang rason kahit sobrang daming rason kung bakit aalis ako, mag-stay ako eh. Kasi gusto ko pa rin maglaro sa UST," he told ABS-CBN Sports.

"Bigyan lang ako ng isang rason para hindi lumipat, maglalaro pa rin ako sa UST. Kaya lang, tinanggal ako eh. Hindi mo naman pwede ipagpilitan yung sarili mo. May pangarap rin naman ako para sa sarili ko. Kaya sobrang lungkot lang na kailangan kong umalis sa UST kahit hindi ko gusto."

Around the same time the statement was released, Cansino secured his release from the University, thus giving him the freedom of where to go.

By the afternoon, Cansino had already made up his mind.

UP formally announced that Cansino had given the school his commitment, and along with it came a photo of the 6'2 swingman posing for a photograph with head coach Bo Perasol and team manager Agaton Uvero.

"CJ will be a great addition to ensuring the sustainability of the program, especially with possibly just one player left from last season playing for Season 84," Perasol said in a statement. "I will personally help him make the transition to being a Fighting Maroon. CJ will definitely enjoy his stay in UP."

Cansino was just one of the numerous blue-chip recruits that the school had obtained for the future. The former UAAP Juniors MVP will be joining Miguel Tan, former CEU center Malick Diouf, Fil-Aussie Ethan Kirkness, Fil-Am Sam Down, former La Salle guard Joel Cagulangan, UV hotshot Jancork Cabahug, and former NU Bullpups Carl Tamayo and Gerry Abadiano.

By the evening, the UAAP released its response to the growing social media posts of the Tigers' alleged "bubble" in coach Aldin Ayo's hometown of Sorsogon.

Executive Dir. Atty. Rebo Saguisag reiterated that all member schools must be able to keep their teams in check.

"Based on available records, the UAAP in its regular meeting last month (all schools were present) discussed the PSC/DOH/GAB Joint Administrative Order (on professional sports)," Saguisag said.

"Each member school was reminded to police their own ranks and to be aware of the different quarantine classifications."

August 22

Though UP confirmed that they had signed up Cansino the day before, there was never any confirmation from the guard itself.

On Saturday, Cansino appeared in a pre-recorded interview with former UST Golden Tigress Carmela Tunay on her webcast, "Anong Tunay?"

There, Cansino recollected how tough the past few months were for him physically and mentally.

"Inaatake ako ng anxiety, napansin ng family ko na pumapayat ako, kasi di ako makatulog. Nahihirapan ako matulog, nahihirapan ako kumain, wala akong gana. Sobrang hirap," recalled Cansino.

"Kung ano-ano talaga mararamdaman mo na ang akala mo mentally strong ka pero di pala talaga. Sobrang drained, exhausted na ako sa last three months," he added.

He, however, refused to confirm nor deny that he participated in practices inside a bubble.

Cansino also confirmed that he was moving on to Diliman, explaining that he felt the same way with UP as he had with UST.

As the afternoon went on, the government, represented by the Dept. of Health, Philippine Sports Commission, and the Games and Amusements Board, opened up an inquiry to determine the facts of the case versus UST.

Before the afternoon online meeting, PSC Chairman William "Butch" Ramirez told ESPN5 that he had obtained footage of the alleged training sessions.

Attending the meeting were PSC National Training Dir. Marc Velasco, GAB Chairman Baham Mitra, DOH representative Rodley Carza, Saguisag, and UAAP Season 83 Pres. Emmanuel Calanog of La Salle.

The PSC announced in the evening that UST did not attend the meeting and was still conducting an internal investigation and would submit its findings later on.

"The PSC, recognizes the UAAP as the mother organization of the concerned team and trusts that proper actions shall be done on this matter," the statement read.

August 23

In the early hours of Sunday morning, UST finally broke its silence by confirming that they indeed had created a fact-finding committee to investigate the matter.

"Today, we heard the news about the alleged breach of quarantine protocols by the UST Basketball Team in Sorsogon. Accordingly, we created a committee to investigate and to inquire into the matter," UST said in a statement.

UST assured that they will not be condoning any breach of quarantine rules.

"We wish to assure you that the University does not tolerate any form of violation of government regulation, and it responds promptly by taking the appropriate action," added the university.

Hours later, Ayo too broke his silence by releasing a lengthy statement in the evening. The coach admitted that he and Cansino had some differences that could only be mended by separation.

"We have varying approaches and adaptation to cope with the crisis. And as we have differences in strokes for different folks, we labor to respect such differences and allow generously for people to grow in the best way they could in whatever situation best fitting them," the coach said in a statement.

"Such is what happened in the case of CJ Cansino and the UST Basketball team under my stewardship. The circumstances of life today have brought out the marked differences between my orientation in life and the fundamental option of our player CJ Cansino," he added.

August 24

Ramirez also gave his two cents on the matter Monday afternoon by writing an opinion piece that was relayed to reporters.

Speaking as the country's sports minister, Ramirez questioned whether winning really must come at the expense of the safety of others.

"Without passing judgment, this situation brings to mind a silent but equally worth noting implication. Does winning always mean everything else takes second place? Are we so focused on winning that we are ready to compromise important matters like the safety of the youth we are supposed to guide?" said Ramirez.

"Is athletic development and achievement, or team readiness more paramount that overstepping bounds, compromising one's safety or putting your team credibility on the line takes a back seat?"

August 26

Just before the IATF body and government convened again in an online meeting, The Varsitarian, the official student publication of UST, reported that Fr. Jannel Abogado, O.P., the school's athletic director, stepped down from his post.

Replacing him was his predecessor Fr. Ermito de Sagon, O.P., who headed IPEA for 17 years in his previous stint.

During the IATF meeting, Cansino tweeted - and later deleted - screenshots of a supposed Messenger group chat he had with the parents of his teammates. These laid out in detail their conditions inside the supposed bubble.

In the group chat were various complaints of the players to their parents, which bordered from lack of adequate nutrition to negligence.

"Yung bigay ng food sobrang sakto lang po, never po naging sobra yung ulam na binibigay sa amin. Tapos sobrang dami pong natitira na ulam sa kanila pero di binibigay sa amin," Brent Paraiso said allegedly.

Reigning UAAP MVP Soulemane Chabi Yo also complained that adjusting to life in the "bubble" was tiresome.

"Home sick, very bored here, poor signal, different routine from what we [are used] to. Not comfortable in my body, and not happy for all this," Chabi Yo relayed in one of the messages.

UST also concluded its internal investigation and said to the panel that they will submit its findings to Fr. Richard Ang, O.P., Rector of UST.

The Commission on Higher Education also stepped in to investigate possible violations of the Tigers as students. The three agencies only focused on their role as athletes.

The UAAP put out a statement at the conclusion of the meeting, duplicating its earlier pronouncements.

"The University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) is committed to protecting the health and safety of each of its student-athletes. We firmly adhere to government policies and directives that require our collective commitment to manage the challenges of the pandemic," mentioned Saguisag.

"We have reminded our members regarding the proper conduct of sports activities at this time. Related to this, the University of Santo Tomas (UST) has announced that it has created a committee to investigate reports that may run contrary to government regulations," he furthered.

August 27

CHED Chairman Prospero de Vera III shared his opinion on the matter while appearing in the daily press briefing at Malacañang.

De Vera mentioned that CHED is still determining whether UST was indeed liable for the debacle.

"Kaya hinintay natin ang report ng UST at titingnan namin sa imbestigasyon ng UST sino ba ang nag-authorize nito? Ito ba ay sanctioned ng pamantasan? Ito ba ay ginawa ng opisyal ng pamantasan? Ito ba ay ginagawa ng walang pahintulot ng pamantasan?" remarked de Vera.

If the UST administration was found to be liable, de Vera added, then sanctions will be issued by CHED. However, if it was determined that the school was unaware of the incident, an internal punishment may be allowed.

"Hindi pa natin alam yan ngayon kaya mahirap magsabi kung sino at ano ang sanction na pwede ibigay pero meron tayong mga batas tulad ng [Education Act of 1982], merong penal sanction sa mga pamantasan sa mga opisyal ng eskwelahan na hindi sumusunod sa mga dapat gawin. Yan ang pag-aaralan natin kung applicable sa UST," closed the Chairman.

August 29

UST guard Brent Paraiso confirmed on Twitter that he was leaving the school. After reports came out reporting the development, Paraiso tweeted, "Nakakalungkot pero kailangan. Mahal na mahal kita UST."

August 31

Rhenz Abando tweeted "Thank you for your ending grace!!!" which confirms reports of his departure from UST. A source told ESPN5.com that Ira Bataller is also on his way out.

September 3

The UAAP Board of Managing Directors (BMD) met for four hours and came up with its recommendations on the case which they will submit to the Board of Trustees. The BMD declines to publicly reveal the recommendations "out of respect" for UST, but a source told ESPN5 that the MBD had recommended that Ayo be sanctioned.

September 4

Aldin Ayo on Friday resigned as the head coach of the UST Growling Tigers. Ayo in a statement took responsibility for the controversy.

The Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) investigative panel met to discuss UST's possible quarantine violations, after which GAB chairman Abraham Mitra told ESPN5 that they would submit their findings to the Department of Justice.

September 7

Rhenz Abando, Ira Bataller and Brent Paraiso joined the Letran Knights.

September 9

The UAAP Board of Trustees slapped an indefinite ban on Aldin Ayo, upholding the recommendation of the Board of Managing Directors.