AFTER last week’s Senate hearings by the Committee on Amateur Sports Competitiveness, which Senator Antonio Trillanes 4th chairs, he described Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr. as “the greatest stumbling block to sports development” in our country.
“For decades, sports development in the country [has] failed to move forward and has consistently been derailed from its tracks due to lack of clear vision and necessary will for reforms.”
The hearing followed Mr. Trillanes’ filing of Senate Bill 9062 seeking the creation of the Department of Sports. The aim of the hearing was to elicit from key players their expert testimonies on how Philippine sports development and our country’s performance in international athletic events could be improved. The Trillanes committee also heard the experts comment on the pitiful performance of our athletes in the recent 2012 London Olympics.
Except for former Congressman Cojuangco, all the top officials of our country’s sports institutions and officials involved in sports development attended the hearing. Among these were Philippine Sports Commission chairman Ricardo Garcia, International Olympic Committee representative to the Philippines Frank Elizalde, and representatives of the Commission on Higher Education, the Department of Education, and Philippine Amusements and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor).
Pagcor is involved not because gambling is considered an athletic sport in our country but because it is the main source of funds used by the more than 50 national sports associations (NSAs). Most of the NSAs are called “regular members” of the Philippine Olympic Committee except for five NSAs that carry the label “associate members of POC” and five NSAs that are called “recognized members.”
Pagcor is not supposed to give its donation directly to the NSAs. But there was a notorious instance during the Arroyo administration when scores of millions were transferred by Pagcor directly to the swimming NSA. How the money was disposed of has been questioned by the Commission on Audit and the Aquino administration’s batch of Pagcor management. As a result, Pagcor has charged the old Pagcor board and management as well as the leadership of the swimming NSA, the Philippine Aquatic Sports Association (PASA). The head of PASA is now on bail, after having been served a warrant of arrest by a Quezon City regional trial court.
Problems like this are only some of the ills afflicting Philippine sports development.
POC boss’ reaction to Trillanes attack
The POC president’s reaction to Sen. Trillanes’ attack was to say the senator knows nothing about sports and accuse him of being ignobly motivated.
Mr. Cojuangco told The Manila Times that the senator “got mad at him, when he refused to allow him to become an ‘instant’ president of the Table Tennis Association of the Philippines (Tatap). He [Trillanes] really wants to get back at me after I denied his request to head one national sport association. I told him to follow the Tatap’s constitution and by-laws but he didn’t. He was elected twice in a non-recognized Tatap election. I also advised him before to stay away from the people he is associated with right now but he just ignores me.”
Cojuangco was referring to Basketball Association of the Philippines (BAP) secretary-general Graham Lim. BAP was ousted by the POC seven years ago for violating certain Olympic committee rules.
Trillanes is the president of BAP, which continues to be an active sports group despite not being recognized by POC.
The POC recognizes Samahan ng Basketbol ng Pilipinas as the NSA for basketball body. It is headed by business wizard Manuel “Manny” Pangilinan.
Cojuangco added more bile against Trillanes, saying: “Trillanes’ admonition should be directed to himself as president of the unrecognized BAP whose venture was to send a basketball team that lost by 48 points and also losing the rest of their games in Universiade.”
This exchange all the more proves that Philippine sports—immersed in political dung—has gone to the dogs.
Role of NSAs
The following is the Philippine Olympic Committee website’s description of the role of national sports associations:
“As the governing bodies for their sport in the country, NSAs play the following important role:
• Recruiting athletes and organizing groups of teams in clubs or other sports organizations which are capable of providing training and regular sports activities;
• Organizing and promoting local, regional, national and international competitions;
• Taking charge of the preparation, selection, and entry of athletes for international competitions that are held under the authority of their respective ISFs [International Sports Federations];
• Proposing to their NOCs, athletes that it considers prepared and eligible to represent their country in regional, continental, and Olympic multi-sports competitions recognized by the IOC. This is with understanding that the NOC is the only competent body to enter the athletes in such games;
• Providing technical assistance for implementing organizational programs to develop grassroots, educational, or fun sports;
• Facilitating the formation of leagues or events circuits (professional, semi-pro, national, regional, or local) that are run by affiliated organizations.”
The Philippine NSAs that nearly all voted for Mr. Cojuangco to head the Philippine Olympic Committee twice—and will most likely re-elect him in November to serve for another four years—have done a very poor job of performing the roles enumerated above. Mr. Cojuangco and his fellow officers of the POC have also done a poor job of leading the NSAs and helping them do their job of developing sports so that our athletes are imbued with the “spirit of Olympism” instead of being driven by the imperatives of turf hegemony and politics.
As we said in this space after our dismal performance in London, “The POC boss and his associates in the national sports associations deserve to be flogged.
“The system of sports management and sports development must be overhauled.”