SOMEWHERE in Asia: IT has been a lonely and uphill battle against perceived corruption in Philippine sports but Graham Lim, whose supposed persecution through the machinations of the powers that be made him flee the country, will not surrender until the sports sector has regained its glory.
“Our sports sector has been badly politicized and monopolized. Since the present leaders of the sports industry took control of the sector in 2005, we saw the deterioration of the quality and conditions of our athletes. Corruption has many faces here.
Billions of pesos are pillaged by a powerful few at the expense of sportsmen. I simply won’t stop exposing them until we regained what was lost,” Lim told The Manila Times in an exclusive interview in an Asian country that has been his “home” for the past three years.
Born and raised in the Philippines, Lim was forced to go on “exile” after he was declared an “undesirable alien” by the Department of Justice three years ago.
The decision was issued allegedly because of the pressure exerted by his powerful rivals — Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr. and Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) head Manuel V. Pangilinan.
“I have been at odds with both men on a matter of principle. Money and influence-peddling are what they have in abundance. What I only have are my honor and principles, which are priceless and never negotiable,” Lim said.
He was the secretary general of the Basketball Association of the Philippines (BAP) that Cojuangco delisted from the POC a few years ago.
Pangilinan’s SBP has since taken over BAP’s slot.
“Monopoly is in one way or the other a form of corruption whether in politics and business,” according to Lim, who revealed that a top government official, through an emissary, had asked P6 million from him to “fix” his case.
“I did not yield to the extortion try. Neither did I try to bribe anyone. I said I would rather give my money, if any, to my family than contribute to corruption,” he said.
Lim claimed that the various National Sports Associations (NSAs) are dictated upon by Cojuangco and whoever opposes the former lawmaker is dismissed “by hook or by crook” and replaced by people who “toe his line.”
He said Cojuangco “has a stranglehold on the POC presidency and has tight control over the 28 or so existing NSAs.”
Cojuangco, an uncle of President Beningo Aquino 3rd, has been POC president for the past decade.
His clout grew when he had his golf buddy Ricardo Garcia appointed as chairman of the controversial Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).
The agency was recently thrust in the spotlight after it was reported that some P1 billion in casino earnings of First Cagayan Leisure and Resort Corp. for sports development and withheld from the PSC from January 2012 to June 2015 had been diverted to former Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima.
“The PSC is being funded from taxpayers’ money and Filipinos have the right to question whether their money is being used efficiently,” Lim said in reaction to the report.
“There are squid tactics employed by Cojuangco and Pangilinan to control leadership in Philippine sports. Dictatorship is their way of governance. Instead of hearing out diversified views to get a better perspective of issues that divide them, the two would rather suppress them,” he noted.
While sports is not a top priority in the administration of Aquino, Lim said the President should have at least admonished his uncle because of his “incompetent leadership” as POC president since “money spent on national sports development is government money.”
“Philippine sports has been in the doldrums because of the weak leadership of Cojuangco, who until now espouses political patronage and acts like he is the only one who knows everything about sports. Cojuangco has overstayed much too long at the helm,” he added.
“It’s high time that Philippine sports be led by young and idealistic people who have the country in their hearts instead of the current deadwood leadership who only seek to protect their own interests,” Lim said.
A sports insider from one of the NSAs who asked not to be named also questioned the appointment of equestrienne Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski as the country’s representative to the International Olympic Committee.
Cojuangco-Jaworski is the daughter of Cojuangco Jr.
“Her appointment surprised everyone. It came without warning. That’s how powerful they are. They have the POC and the PSC is also under their control,” the source said.
The Philippines has been lagging behind in international sports not only in Asia but also at the Southeast Asian level.
In 2015, the country placed sixth among 11 countries in the Southeast Asian Games (SEAG).
Two years ago, Manila slipped to a record-worst seventh in the SEAG, tailing Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia.
Lim recalled that in the 1960s, “Filipino athletes were giving Japan and South Korea a run for their money in the Asian Games.”
“The search for a first-ever gold medal in the Summer Olympics remains elusive while our Southeast Asian neighbors Thailand and Indonesia have already accomplished the feat many moons ago,” he said.
To be continued