This December, and in the spirit of the season, I will shift the focus of my commentary from the politics and vexations of the day, to one overarcching theme: “the best that we can be as a nation”.
I will host in this column ideas and proposals on how we can raise the level of national performance across a wide spectrum of interests – from tourism, to sports, to culture, economy and statecraft.
The essay on adopting “the pearl of the orient” as our national brand and slogan was a start.
Next week, I will discuss what I have been researching for some time – the economy of culture, and creative industries development.
Today, my subject is sports — and how the Philippines can end its misery in international sports competition and develop into a sports power in its own right.
Logical and challenging goal in sports
I believe there is a natural correlation between President Duterte’s objective of ridding the country of illegal drugs and saving the younger generations of our people, and our people’s prayer and aspiration for high performance and excellence in sports.
I submit that a drug-free nation of 100 million should be a sports power, and not a sports weakling.
This is the logical and challenging goal that we must shoot for, now that the country has committed to host the Southeast Asian Games in Manila and Davao City in 2019.
This is a natural corollary to President Duterte’s cherished vision of a drug-free Philippines.
As in 2005, when the Philippines topped the medal standings while hosting the SEA games, so in 2019 we must strive for nothing less than the top ranking in the biennial competition.
In 2020, when the next Olympics will be held in Tokyo, we should go full speed in our quest for our first Olympic gold medal. This anomaly must be corrected once and for all.
The time to prepare for these challenges is now, when we have the time to design and implement a strategic plan and program.
To make things happen, we need to be fully organized for the effort, with both government and the private sector pulling together in one big push forward.
To pull this off, national sports needs real leaders and managers, not impostors at the top.
Ombudsman and sports renewal
Strange as it may seem, the unathletic Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales can give this goal of sports renewal a big boost, if she can quickly confirm or deny an astonishing claim made by Philippine Olympic Committee President Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, Jr. that the Ombudsman has personally cleared him of liability for public funds that he handled 11 years ago and has up to now failed to liquidate.
The Philippine Star reported this matter in its issue of Sunday, Nov. 27. It reported Cojuangco as claiming the government, in trying to collect from him P27 million in unliquidated cash advances, is beating a dead horse, because he has already been cleared by the Office of the Ombudsman.
Cojuuangco said: “I have papers signed by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales that the case been dismissed. I’ve been cleared.”
True or not, this requires an official statement from the Ombudsman because her constitutional authority relates only to the accountability of public officers and employees (article XI of the Constitution), and not to the accountability of private citizens. Her office is not a substitute for the Commission on Audit.
The POC is a private corporation and organization, and Mr. Cojuangco is a private citizen.
Resolution of this matter will help to clarify the roles of the government’s Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) in the governance and direction of national sports.
Key decisions needed
Early on, a decision must be made to place the leadership and management of national sports in the hands of the PSC, which is in charge of public funds for sports development and competition.
The POC, which has the nominal responsibility to lead, but which has presided over the country’s sports decline, needs to step aside under the sound management principle: “Lead, Follow or Get out of the way.”
The POC, which recently held its quadrennial elections, will naturally insist on its prerogatives. The 82-year-old Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, who recently got inexplicably elected to a fourth four-year term as POC president, hopes to provide his usual sclerotic leadership, along with his gang of functionaries and subservient national sports associations (NSAs).
PSC chairman William Ramirez and his board should just bypass them all.
The commission should boldly make the key decisions that must be made:
1. Build an alternative to the POC and the colluding NSAs.
2. Lobby early for a budget from Congress for the necessary preparations for the 2019 SEA games.
3. Appoint early a professionally trained chief executive for the 2019 SEA games.
4. Chart a separate course from the POC in designing a strategic plan for the SEA games and the Tokyo Olympics.
5. Market the SEA games to generate sponsors and adequate TV coverage.
6. Lobby for the passage in Congress of a comprehensive national sports development program. There are models for this to be found in the experience of Australia and the United Kingdom, when they hosted the Olympics. They were both highly successful in upgrading national sports performance and raising sports excellence.
The benefits from the sports development programs could still be seen in this year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, particularly in the case of UK.
Also worthy of emulation are the programs of Russia and China, with their emphasis on sports schools and training.
Finally, Jamaica is worthy of study because of its spectacular success in athletics, notably the incomparable Usain Bolt. By concentrating on the sprints and athletics, Jamaica has become a sports power in its own right.