Why We Need to Reform Philippine Sports

In 2005, the Philippines proudly stood as the champion in the bi-annual SouthEast Asian (SEA) Games. It was a time for jubilation, a time to beat our own chests. The Philippines may have benefitted from being the host nation at the time, but it doesn’t diminish the fact that we were – at the very least – right there among the top nations in the region in the field of sports.

Peping Cojuangco, then newly-elected President of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), as well as the key leaders in the different National Sports Associations (NSAs), were feted for their great effort in preparing our athletes for this glorious achievement.

In 2007 however, the mood drastically changed as we found ourselves tumbling all the way down to 6th. In just a span of 2 years, gold medal performances were lost. We realized that our best was no longer good enough. It provided a shocking realization that our teams – most especially our sports leaders – have been relaxing on their laurels, while the opposition toiled and had greatly improved.

This should have sent alarm bells ringing, but no. Instead, we were simply fed – and we contented ourselves – with alibis and excuses. It was business as usual, as though the 6th place finish was an ordinary fact of life. There was no sense of urgency, no feeling of disappointment over a clearly under-achieving 6th place finish. It was “all good”, “we tried our best”, “we were cheated”, “breaks of the game”, “we’ll get them next time”, “the officials didn’t tell us”, and so on and so forth.

And this has gone on like this since then. Lies, excuses and alibis were recycled as we didn’t seem to move – and didn’t seem to care – as we lingered in the 5th to 7th rank from 2009 til 2017. And this is just the SEA Games, for God’s sake! In a span of a decade, we have forgotten the glory years, and have learned instead to accept a defeatist attitude where 6th is good enough, stop complaining and let’s just be thankful for that.

But what really ails Philippine sports? Is it the lack of a talent pool? Tell that to Malaysia and Singapore, both of which have smaller population bases. Is it the lack of resources? Tell that to Vietnam, newly recovered from the ravages of decades of war. Is it our physique, our ethnic build? We in the ASEAN are practically the same with our Malay roots. Is it technology? We have access to the same technology as most of our Asean neighbors. Is it the lack of training opportunities? Again, we have access to these unless our very own leaders deny us the opportunity. What gives? Have we ever seriously reflected on why we have gotten the same sad results?

Perhaps we should also seriously think about the lack of focus. Consider the lack of accountability, and sense of responsibility. Perhaps we should look closely at the leadership. Are these supposed leaders really focused on their athletes’ welfare? Or are they more concerned about perpetuating their stay in power? Are they practicing transparency and proper audit mechanisms? Or have they been using the funds for other purposes? Are they using proper protocols in running the POC and the different NSAs? Or have they been able to maneuver around regular ethical practices?

Maybe our supposed sports leaders will stop dipping their fingers on precious funds if transparency and proper auditing mechanisms are put in place. Perhaps these leaders will stop the practice of lavish trips abroad to look into affairs of sports other than theirs, etc. Perhaps these leaders will finally realize what ‘conflict of interest’ means.

Reform Philippine Sports calls for a transformation within the ranks of the POC leadership. We want professional conduct, discipline, full transparency for all transactions and a stop to corruption. We want a stop to ‘palakasan’, etc. We want unity, not division. We want inclusivity, not exclusivity – as though their friends and allies alone deserved the right to play. The ‘right to play’ is a basic human right that should be available for everyone, not just exclusive for those aligned with the leaders that be. Most of all, we want justice and peace.

The following actions will lead to the needed reforms in Philippine Sports:
1. Call for a new election in light of the resignation of Ricky Vargas. Identify who are the people qualified to lead a new, reformed POC.
2. Impeach the Board. We tried asking for a courtesy resignation, but it seems these coup pals are simply too thick-faced to care. A new Board is needed, one which will both be a fiscalizer and a reformist, not a protectionist.
3. Institute constitutional changes. The old POC has been able to fool around with the POC’s loose protocols and procedures. Never again. The new POC should be more sensitive to the athletes’ welfare, not the leaders’ longevity in service.
4. Call the attention of the IOC to the tyranny of sports politics in the country. The IOC is fiercely protective of the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) over government intervention because of the perception of dirty politics. This is quite ironic, as here in the Philippines, it is precisely within the POC itself where the stench of dirty partisan politics has become much more pronounced, precisely because government is not allowed to intervene.

The dispute has reached the halls of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), supposedly an unbiased body but which has seemingly turned into a Cojuangco ally. Peping’s mafia has had more than a decade of developing relationships with the IOC and the different International Federations (IFs). They have successfully maneuvered the election of Mikee Cojuangco into the IOC. With all these, there is now a growing apprehension over the way IOC behaves itself. Mikee’s inputs in regard matters concerning IOC-POC activities will always be suspect, with her father’s ever-present shadow.

The movement to Reform Philippine Sports (RP Sports) came into being due to the growing clamor to arrest the tide of disrepute in Philippine Sports. Athletes and sports fans have closed ranks. People are now slowly waking up. Indifferent no more, people now realize that a weak Philippine Sports image will reflect on a weak, ill-disciplined, unprofessional people. Even members of the international sports community have sent messages of support. It is time for change. A time for Reform and Renewal.

Help us in this campaign to regain our pride as a people.


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