Last Thursday, September 21, the nation commemorated the 45th anniversary of the proclamation of Martial Law and like in the previous three decades or so of observing the occasion, marches, demonstrations and rallies marked the day in Metro Manila and several other key cities within the archipelago attended mostly by young protester IOCs who, most likely, know nothing why President Marcos put the whole country under military rule.
Over at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum inside the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex at the heart of capital City of Manila, a small group some 100 individuals whose leaders claimed to have been driven by their love of sports and the Filipino athletes as their main reason, also staged a protest principally targeting Philippine Olympic Committee Jose “Peping” Cojuangco.
Cojuangco, whose watch as the POC high priest dates back in the early 2000, leaders of the protesters asserted, must step down from his position ASAP to save Philippine sports, which they diagnosed to be dying … from what else … but die completely.
Leaders of the protest action were blaming Cojuangco for what they said the Filipino athletes’ debacle in recent international competitions the country was committed to take part in, particularly the just-ended 29th Southeast Asian Games where the 700-strong national delegation could only bring home a measly 24 gold medals ending up a poor sixth place overall in the 11 nation field.
That total output was five-gold sort of the 29 harvest the 2013 and the 2015 contingents fashioned out in a similar sixth and seventh place finishes, the latter the country’s lowest since joining the SEA Games Federation rank exactly 40 years ago.
In a statement sent to major media outfits on the eve of the rally, group convenor Eduardo “Boy” Cantada, also the leader of one of the two groups contesting leadership in volleyball, the protest march will call for the ouster of the POC top honcho.
It is, however doubted how the former Tarlac congressman can be ousted owing to the fact that he was voted in for his first three terms by majority votes of he body’s 40 members. He earned his fourth four-year term via acclamation when his opponent, Alliance of Boxing Associations of the Philippines president Ricky Vargas was disqualified on technicality.
I am not a Cong Peping apologist, but, having known him for a long time since his involvement in junior bowling development in the 80s, I personally don’t believe either that he will resign from his position as Cantada’s group, likewise, demands.
Nor can they succeed in staging coup d’ tat of sort to remove the president whom members voted four times in-a-row to run the POC affairs for nearly two decades.
What’s left for them to do remove Cong Peping as the highest official of the country’s regulatory body for sports would be to go to court although that is tantamount to inviting government intervention that can jeopardize our relations with the International Olympic Committee.
Former Philippine Sports Commission chair Perry Mequi was quoted as saying that if the change they are demanding can come through suspension, “okay lang. Kasi ano ba maganda, we are not suspended by the IOC and we keep on participating, pero ‘yung mga athlete natin, napapahiya.”
A dangerous statement, I may say so. Paalaala ko lang kay Prof. Mequi, once suspended by the IOC mahihirapan tayong ma-reinstate because, knock on wood, if ever, that would be the second time that would happen to us following a similar suspension imposed on us by the international body in the early 80s.
I should know because I was a member four-man team that went to the IOC headquarters in Lucerne, Switzerland that argued for the lifting of the suspension the IOC imposed on the Philippines.
Our group included then POC President Michael Keon, secretary general Francisco Almeda and the Daily Express’ Antonio Siddayao. We succeeded in convincing then IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch to recommend the lifting of the suspension brought about, too, by the suspicion of government intervention.
And I still remember Mr. Samaranch’s stern warning for the Philippines to watch out committing another violation of IOC rules because once suspended again, reacquiring membership won’t be that easy and might lead to outright ouster.