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A travesty of justice?

WE were taken aback when we read that the Court of Appeals’ second division, in a decision penned by Associate Justice Ramon Cruz, had reversed and set aside an earlier ruling by the Manila Regional Trial Court junking former two-division world champion Luisito Espinosa’s claim against the organizers and promoters of his title defense against Argentina’s Carlos Rios in Koronodal, South Cotabato on Dec. 6, 1997.

We were even more surprised when the CA directed the estate of the late Rod Nazario and his legal heirs to pay Espinosa the amount of $130,349, interest thereon at 12 percent per annum calculated from the date of judicial demand on May 25, 1998 until June 30, 2013 and interest thereon at the rate of six percent from July 1, 2013 until full satisfaction.”

Whether the justices were moved by the publicity surrounding the supposed plight of Espinosa, who obviously didn’t get paid and was seemingly having a hard time, or took what they may have deemed a popular stand, we would never know.

It is well noting that in an excellent article by veteran journalist Gabby Alvardo complete with pictures, it showed that Espinosa was engaged in a fulfilling role as a boxing trainer in Hong Kong and appeared to be fine. However, that it no way mitigates the crime that he was not paid his purse for his fight against Carlos Rios in South Cotabato, the territory of the prime mover, Governor Hilario De Pedro III.

Having been involved in almost every step of the way in this fight and being present in Koronadal when events unfolded, we feel, with all due respect to the CA Justices,  that they were not made aware of the real facts of the case and as a result, rendered a decision that we honestly believe was unfair to Nazario at the very least, we feel it’s time to set the record straight and hope that ultimately justice will be correctly and fairly served.

To begin with, the man who wanted the fight in Koronodal – was governor Hilario De Pedro III and Espinosa’s manager Joe Koizumi, who wanted a fight so he could get his share of the purse. It was as simple as that.

But they couldn’t promote the fight because they were not licensed promoters and so they requested Nazario and his longtime friend and partner Lito Mondejar to act as promoters and as obvious fronts for De Pedro and Koizumi.

We cannot understand why the honorable justices failed to accept the fact that Nazario and Mondejar merely accommodated the governor. Surely, Nazario, an astute promoter wouldn’t dare think of promoting a world title fight in such a basically under-developed region, without proper television facilities and serious issues of peace and order.

Governor De Pedro was obliged to pay the training expenses of Espinosa, as well as his purse and when he failed to keep his commitment and in an effort to save the fight, De Pedro signed a promissory note with then Games and Amusements Board chairman Doming Cepeda and Nazario signing as witnesses.

But the governor didn’t deliver and sought the help of President Fidel Ramos, who instructed the Presidential Management Staff to pay Espinosa P1 million as an incentive for winning. When Espinosa and his wife Maricherie, who had an uncanny sense of showing up whenever Luisito was to receive some money, showed up at Malacanang, we understand they were told that the P1 million was to be deducted from the amount governor De Pedro owed Espinosa as his purse for the fight.

Maricherie insisted that the P1 million should be paid on top of Espinosa’s purse and when the PMS didn’t agree, she stormed out with Luisito who was often bullied by his wife, in tow.

De  Pedro was also responsible for a major disaster in terms of the television coverage of the fight, which was to be beamed to Argentina on a slightly delayed basis.

He promised us that a light plane or helicopter would be on standby to ferry a tape of the fight to Cebu for transmittal by microwave to Manila and then via satellite to Argentina. Lo and behold, the light plane or helicopter promised by governor De Pedro didn’t show up and even if it did, the individual manning the airport had left his post because there were no night-flying facilities.

It was a horrifying  experience for us, since we couldn’t keep our commitment to Argentine television who threatened to sue. We also weren’t able to telecast the fights for Filipino boxing fans the same night. Millions in sponsorship money was lost because Manny Pacquiao who was handled by Nazario was also featured on the undercard.

A few years later, when Espinosa’s wife had abandoned him and married another man and he was down and out both financially and in spirit, Rod Nazario, typical of his kindness and generosity, handed then GAB chairman Eric Buhain P500,000 to be turned over to Espinosa without telling him whom it came from.

One of the seriously questionable decisions is why governor De Pedro wasn’t charged when he was the prime culprit in the entire mess? And why was Nazario, who was only trying to help ensure that the fight pushes through, penalized in such fashion?

It is a fact that sometimes media, because of its own  sentiments, favors one party against another. Espinosa, betrayed and abandoned by his wife, was someone to be pitied for sure, but not at the expense of Rod Nazario, whose legal heirs are now being asked to pay a huge amount for a crime they were not a party to.

It reflects the sometimes sad story of people who wish to help being penalized for lending a helping hand. Indeed, this must be classified as a travesty of justice.

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