As expected, Peping Cojuangco got re-elected to a 4th term as President of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC). Running unopposed, the 82- year old sports strongman took 26 out of 37 possible votes in the election held last Friday, November 25, at the Wack Wack Golf and Country Club. As President since 2005, Peping now has the distinction of having the longest reign at the POC helm.
Once again, the old boys club (aka the Philippine sports mafia) has wrested control of the leadership of Philippine sports. At a time when most of the world is out looking for change, the country’s sporting leaders surprisingly are looking for continuity. This, despite having led our athletes to embarrassing debacles in the country’s worst finishes ever in the last 5 South East Asian (SEA) Games. Donald Trump won the US elections because the American public didn’t want another 4 years of the status quo. Rodrigo Duterte won the Philippine elections because the Filipino people were fed up with the status quo. In our sporting world however, despite their glaring failures and pathetic performances, Peping’s sports mafia ironically still continues to wield power.
Is there really no one else capable of leading us back to sports respectability? Are we not tired of all the embarrassment and ridicule that our Asean neighbors say behind our backs? Can you honestly be satisfied with our lamentable 6th or 7th place finish in the SEA Games? Pwede na yan. Ok lang yan. Is that acceptable at all? It seems that we have become callous masochists, eager to inflict the same pain on ourselves over and over again.
I wonder what it is that Peping and his cohorts offered that they have not thought of during the last 12 years of their reign of shame. But then, they didn’t have to offer anything. All they needed to do was to conveniently disqualify boxing’s Ricky Vargas and cycling’s Abraham Tolentino. Voila! No more opposition. No need for new platforms or new ideas. No need to talk about aspirations and dreams, never mind the issues and concerns. No one dares to tangle with him still. For he has instilled in most everyone a fear of being left out. Not a whimper, for they still believe this man can make life difficult for them. Remember what he did to the Philippine Volleyball Federation (PVF) and the Philippine Dragon Boat Federation (PDBF)? Just tow the goddamn line, man, and just shut your trap! To them, that’s the only way to survive in Philippine sports.
Hay naku, Pilipinas, GISING!!!
The lack of opposition in the election clearly demonstrates the protectionist stance these NPAs (non-performing assets) have taken. They want to be entrenched in their thrones forever, and they really don’t care if it’s to the detriment of our country and people. This old boys club will continue to hold our sports world hostage with their goofy ideas and their senior moments. This mafia will hold on to their thin strands of power, thinking they alone know what’s best for their respective sports. They have to be exposed for what they truly are. Otherwise Philippine sports will continue to suffer from the sorry environment they have nurtured.
Immediately after the sham elections, Peping talked of unity and the need to be helpful to the community. How can he even talk about unity when it is in fact he himself who has been the source of disunity and grave discomfort among our athletes? Take it from the late great sportscaster Ronnie Nathanielz: Peping should realize that he is in fact the disaster in Philippine sports. For even among the would-be giant corporate sponsors, there is a growing hesitance to provide support when they know that there is nothing new – no new direction, no new initiatives, no new vigor in the leadership – that the sporting community has to offer.
If Peping truly wants unity and harmony, then he has to shun away the partisan politics and distance himself from the old boys’ club. By doing so, he will at least be able to turn his nightmare legacy in sports into something a bit more acceptable. For the truth is, while the International Olympic Committee specifically mandates National Olympic Committees (NOCs) to be detached from government because of the perception of dirty politics involved, it is precisely within the POC itself where the stench of partisan politics has become most unbearable.
Here are some of the things Peping should be willing to do:
- Make peace with Nikki Coseteng and the disfavored group under the Philippine Swimming League. Let their swimmers compete for slots in the national team. They have outstanding swimmers that deserve a chance at the national slots.
- Reinstate the Philippine Dragon Boat Federation (PDBF) as the legitimate NSA for dragon boating. Even after 6 years of handling dragon-boating in the country, the Philippine Canoe Kayak Federation (PCKF) paddlers cannot hold a candle against the grizzled veterans of the PDBF. Let PCKF focus on canoe-kayaking, they have enough on their plate already.
- Remove Joey Romasanta as Volleyball head, and let the volleyball community choose a leader from among their ranks. Joey is undoubtedly an amiable and a respected sportsman, and he has good intentions, but the fact that he was rammed down the throats of the volleyball association leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
- Resolve the factionalism in the bowling community. No favoritism, stop the bata-bata; just hear them out.
- So with women’s basketball and the other sports which have complained of having ‘favored’ sons and daughters. Stop the favoritism.
- Allow the perceived disfavored sports associations such as boxing, cycling, football, etc more leeway in sending their athletes to foreign competitions and training. They should know better.
- Stop cuddling sports associations that have not been performing up to par. National Sports Associations (NSAs) that have not been delivering – and this can be easily seen in the SEA Games results – should be held accountable for their unsatisfactory results. Their leaders should be replaced, whether they are part of the mafia or not. Let’s look for young creative minds who can move the Associations forward.
- Be transparent with all sports funds provided, whether it is from the government or from the private sector.
There are many other things he can do to demonstrate sincerity in his call for unity. Peping has a chance to clean his slate right now. He can be magnanimous in victory and show greatness by taking this radical step. Question is: will he do it, or will he not?