The Philippines was once a baseball powerhouse but not anymore. While local talents still abound, baseball, a sport brought to the country by the Americans has suffered serious decline in recent years because of politics, poor leadership and lack of promotion.
The Philippines ruled the first Asian Baseball Championship in 1954 and then finished third and fourth in the same meet in 1955 and 1971 against Asian powerhouse teams Japan, China and Taiwan. Though it is not as popular as before among Filipinos of the 21st century, the Philippine national baseball team still dominated the 2011 Southeast Asian Games despite lack of financial support from the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).
Hector Navasero who died recently because of lingering illness was the president of the Philippine Amateur Baseball Association (PABA) the national sport association (NSA) for baseball for decades.
Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) First Vice President Joey Romasanta said that the PABA was besieged with problems during and after Navasero’s reign.
“How can you encourage all stakeholders if they can’t participate in the election since the group of Navasero was controlling the entire association and the election itself,” said Romasanta.
Romasanta explained that most baseball stakeholders like those in the provinces and cities have lost their interest to support the sport because of Navasero’s tight grip on the presidency of PABA since the early 1990’s.
Romasanta also added that PABA’s recent election, where the late Navasero was reelected president and his son vice president, was not recognized by the POC because of the absence of an observer.
After Navasero’s death, Ely Baradas was named the acting president of PABA with the blessing of the POC. The Olympic committee then ordered PABA to hold a stakeholders meeting before holding another election.
“Once they hold the stakeholders meeting, election will be the next thing they will do,” said Romasanta, who is a baseball advocate since the Gintong Alay days of the 1980’s. “There are many stakeholders around.”
The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), under Richie Garcia, has cut the monthly stipend of the national baseball team beginning February 2013 after the POC declared that PABA is no longer a legitimate NSA.
National player Jonash Rances Fulgencio Jr., a 10-year baseball veteran, lamented that though the Philippine baseball squad is currently No. 18 in world rankings, they are not receiving the support that they deserved from the government.
“We are good in baseball but we can’t move higher than No. 18 because of leadership and election problems,” Fulgencio told The Manila Times. “The athletes are very affected by those problems. I’m hoping the new leadership will help the sport and us. In fact, there is no problem about the association’s program. The only problem is politics.”