THE declaration by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) that the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex (RMSC) is a national historical landmark, and cannot be utilized for other purposes by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) and the city government of Manila is a significant one. This will hopefully put a stop to the persistent scheming of certain individuals and sports officials who brazenly seek to personally profit from the privatization and sale of the property.
Instead of serving as serious leaders of national sports, they are taking part in a cabal that will be injurious to national sports and the welfare of Filipino athletes.
We are appalled that the POC and the PSC are joined together in this enterprise. The nation expects better from these organizations which have been given the privilege to lead in the development of sports.
Much responsibility for this situation belongs to POC president Jose Peping Cojuangco, Jr. because he has been the most persistent in lobbying and pressing hard for two harebrained ideas:
1. The privatization and sale of the Rizal Memorial Complex to a private developer.
2. The proposal to transfer the home of national sports from the capital city of Manila to Cojuangco’s home province of Tarlac, and evidently to his home farm of Hacienda Luisita.
Quite apart from the impact on the argument of the NHCP ruling, it is important to emphasize and for POC and PSC to realize that there are many things that are wrong with these schemes.
First, it is unconscionable and repugnant that a private citizen, who holds no public office should be interfering in the disposition of a property of the Philippine government, and should be seeking to profit from its sale.
The POC is a private organization, with no official tie to the sports complex.
Second, the privatization and sale of Rizal Memorial smacks of collusion between the POC, the PSC and the private developer. It was first hatched jointly by Cojuangco and the previous chairman of the PSC, Richie Garcia, who was appointed by President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Cojuangco’s urging.
Cojuangco and Garcia concocted the scheme to sell the complex to billionaire businessman Enrique Razo, who agreed to buy the complex at a handsome prize.
They deceptively presented the scheme as beneficial to national sports because the PSC can then move its training facilities and stadium to a new and less expensive site.
Third, significantly, all this plotting took place without consideration of the fact that the Rizal Memorial is a donation of the estate of Hermogenes Vito Cruz to the Philippine government as a service to Philippine sports. The service of sports was a condition for the donation and remains as such.
That condition cannot be changed by the donee. On the contrary, the donee is duty bound to honor the terms of the donation.
Fourth, Manila should think twice about surrendering in such cavalier fashion its privileged distinction as the home of national sports. Rizal Memorial should stay put because Manila is our national and cultural capital.
Finally, we seriously question and protest the transfer of the Rizal Memorial sports facility to Hacienda Luisita and the province of Tarlac.
Nothing but a selfish and personal cause is served by this proposed transfer. And it attracts a potential quarrel with the farmer beneficiaries of Luisita, who are locked in a bitter fight with the Cojuangco family.
Moving national sports competition and training to the proposed venues make no sense because the great majority of people who now benefit from the facility live in Metro Manila.
Finally, we think the wisest course to follow in resolving this question is to consider the following. Have POC and the PSC studied with the interested buyer the possibility of building a new and modern sports complex that can accomplish the following:
1. Preserve the historical landmark, the old location and honor the deed of donation;
2. Create a new and more modern and hospitable sport facility that will serve more sports and be more hospitable to athletes and sports fans; and
3. Facilitate the creation of a system and facility that will redound to the development and betterment of Philippine sport.