THE strategy and tactics of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) to hold Philippine sports perennially hostage to its moneymaking designs have finally been exposed for what they are: a grubby and reprehensible misuse of its temporary leadership of national sports and the Philippine sports community.
In an unfortunate turn of events, all plans and preparations for the Philippines’ hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games have gone haywire. The biennial event is now off the Philippine and Asean calendars, because the Philippine government has formally decided to withdraw its guarantee to finance the games and involve all related government agencies to ensure their success.
The entire plan has fallen apart because the POC demanded from the government that it should be given full control over the country’s hosting of the Games in 2019, as well as control over the proposed P1 billion games fund to be raised from the public and private sectors.
This preposterous demand was impolitically presented by the POC’s representative, lawyer Wencelito Andanar, the father of Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Sen. Miguel Zubiri, whom President Duterte had designated to head the games committee.
The demands were rejected outright by Medialdea and Zubiri, who jointly decided to withdraw the government’s guarantee for the funding of the games.
Subsequently, William Ramirez, the chairman of the Philippine Sports Commission, formally wrote POC president Jose Cojuangco to inform him of the decision, and to relay the avowed reason that the President would rather direct the funds to the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi City.
In the annals of Philippine sports, which is usually short of funds, this is the worst kind of stupidity and miscalculation. With an eye on skimming from the Philippine hosting of the games, the POC has compromised for all of Southeast Asia the biennial staging of the Southeast Asian Games. It has deprived Filipino athletes and sports people the opportunity to put national sports and skills in competition with the best of their regional counterparts. And it has robbed the country of the opportunity to show the region the strides that it is making under the new administration of President Duterte. Had the SEAG pushed through in 2019, it would have been the fourth time that the country would be hosting the games.
So, let us make things very clear. The country is withdrawing, not because it cannot do the job, or because it is so hard-up that it cannot afford the cost. For the fastest growing economy in the region, that is plainly impossible.
The Philippines is withdrawing because it has an Olympic committee that does not have the interests of sports and sports people uppermost in mind, but rather only its own selfish interest.
It is manifestly time that the nation should stop Mr. Jose Cojuangco and the POC from holding national sports hostage to their selfish schemes. Thankfully, it has now happened.