Corruption in Philippine sports remains unabated, as proven by the filing of graft charges against several officials of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), according to Graham Lim, former secretary general of the Basketball Association of the Philippines.
He noted that the PSC has been pouring taxpayers’ money to projects preferred by “higher-ups.”
Lim said the charges filed against sports officials ranged from failure to liquidate millions spent for an activity held several years ago and their refusal to grant tax exemption to the Philippine Swimming League (PSL).
Former Sen. Nikki Coseteng and PSL President Susan Papa initiated the filing of the complaint at the Office of the Ombudsman against PSC Commissioners Salvador Andrada, Wigberto Clavecilla, Gilian Akiko Thomson-Guevara and Jose Ruiz “Jolly” Gomez and executive director Guillermo Iroy.
The complainants alleged that the respondents abandoned their duty in favor of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), citing Section 21 of Republic Act (RA) 6847, which exempts the PSC and its delegation or representatives to any international sports meet, and athletes, coaches and other officials to any international competition from travel-related taxes or fees.
The complainants cited one incident on September 30, 2014, when PSL applied for travel tax exemption for a swimming meet in Bangkok for a November competition.
The PSC denied the request, saying it is subject to the endorsement and approval of the President and/or Secretary of the POC.
The POC is a private entity and has no authority to confirm or deny PSL’s request for exemption, they pointed out.
The anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International confirmed that the sports industry around the world has been tainted with corruption.
“Sport is a multi-billion dollar business. It has intricate ties to political and private interests. This means rich opportunities for corruption. Yet across the sporting sector, most deals and decisions take place behind closed doors. This allows corruption to go unchecked and unpunished,” the group said in an article posted on its website.
“Corruption in sport has many forms. Referees and players can take bribes to fix matches.
Club owners can demand kickbacks for player transfers. Companies and governments can rig bids for construction contracts. Organized crime is behind many of the betting scandals that have dented sport’s reputation,” the watchdog said.
It further noted that “money laundering is widespread” in the sports sector too.
“This can take place through sponsorship and advertising arrangements. Or it may be through the purchase of clubs, players and image rights. Complex techniques are used to launder money through football and other sports. These include cross-border transfers, tax havens and front companies,” Transparency International said.
The media also has the power to raise awareness about corruption in sport. With these changes [in]the rules of the game, the sector can regain its reputation for fair play,” the group added.
In an exclusive story previously published by The Manila Times, Cojuangco had maintained that corruption in Philippine sports has been reduced since he became POC president in 2005.
“Most national sport associations are also making their own solutions to fight corruption,” he said.
Cojuangco explained that the POC was assigned by the International Olympics Committee to arbitrate and decide leadership disputes among leaders of NSAs.
Since 2005, the POC has resolved leadership crisis in swimming, billiards, basketball, table tennis, wushu and shooting, he said.
“There is more politics in sports than there is politics in the world,” the POC president declared.
“We are doing our best to solve leadership problems and doing the best solution to unite sports stakeholders for the best interest of their sports.”
The POC is also required to intervene within any NSA if national pride is at stake.
“We just can’t allow any sports association to carry the name of our country most of the time and then lose by a mile [to]their foreign counterparts,” the former lawmaker said, referring to Lim’s BAP.
He said the BAP was kicked out as member of the POC after putting the country in bad light in 2005.
The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) headed by Manuel V. Pangilinan replaced BAP as the official NSA for basketball in the country.
Cojuangco said the NSAs themselves are responsible for the future of their sports and their own respective athletes.
The POC, he added, is only there to guide them, being the “mother organization” under the sanction of the IOC.
He noted that since the 2000 Sydney Olympics when the POC was under the leadership of Celso Dayrit, the Philippines has not won a single medal.
The odds changed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics after the country won a gold medal in wushu courtesy of Willy Wang.
Unfortunately, the medal was not counted in the official tally since wushu was considered a demonstration sports only.
For Cojuangco Jr., winning the country’s first Olympic gold medal needs a lot of sacrifices, planning and hard work.
So far, one of the long-term plans by the POC is the creation of a new huge sports complex facility somewhere in Clark, Pampanga, to house and train all national athletes.
The other plan, according to Cojuangco Jr., is choosing the priority sports where Filipinos have a strong chance of winning an Olympic gold medal.
Boxing, tae kwon do, shooting, archery and weightlifting, among others, are among the recent priority sports chosen by the POC.
Meanwhile, Lim scored Cojuangco, Pangilinan and former Justice Secretary Leila de Lima for working together to ensure his absence not only in Philippine sports events but in the country.
In a letter dated February 21, 2016 addressed to Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Lim narrated how he was deprived of due process and has been a victim of human rights violations when he found out in December 8, 2012 that he could not return to the Philippines from a meeting in Singapore.
“Harassment and intimidation against my person and family for the last 16 years are already taking its toll. Unable to see my family for more than three years has been a harrowing experience… Without my physical presence, I have been unable to fulfill my paternal duties such as providing them their financial needs and moral support,” Lim bewailed.
“My family has suffered long enough, struggling to make both ends meet in the Philippines while I have been hard up financially, emotionally and spiritually in a country that has remained alien to me until now. I have been inhumanely forced to wander in a foreign country without any permanent residency and direction,” he said.
Lim blamed de Lima for his predicament after the former Justice chief unduly reversed a Department of Justice (DOJ) ruling declaring him a “stateless” person in September 2010 and who may be allowed permanent residency in the Philippines.
Lim said he was forced into exile in 2012 when de Lima issued Circular Number 058, which effectively reversed his status as a “stateless” person.
“[De Lima] came up with Circular Number 058 that was issued in October 2012 and implemented on May 15, 2013 against me in order to defend its decision [to]reverse my ‘stateless’ person status,” Lim said.
The DOJ circular, he explained, ruled that he was an “undesirable alien” and, therefore, subject to deportation.
“This circular should apply only to cases that occurred beginning October 2012 and not to those people that were declared ‘stateless’ before then. In doing so, it had acted retroactively in my case,” Lim said.
He added that the DOJ secretary has no power to reverse the ruling of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) that he was a “stateless” person, a status he unduly earned although he was born, raised and taught in the Philippines.
“I have two teenaged children by my natural-born Filipino wife,” Lim pointed out.
“I could not comprehend why [then]Justice de Lima would waste a lot of precious time to act harshly and inhumanely against my person in the form of an exile when I am simply an ordinary person who wishes to help uplift Philippine sports,” he said.