President Aquino’s biggest boast is that he has championed and effected major reforms that have moved the Filipino nation forward and raised the quality of life in various sectors, from the economy to education.
But it is also manifest, that in some other sectors, instead of change and improvement, what has taken place is reverse reform—pervasive decline and deterioration in the five years of President Aquino’s term.
One clear victim of reverse reform is Philippine sports, where from a position of national competitiveness and even leadership in Southeast Asia at the start of Aquino’s presidency, we have sunk to the status of a weakling and laggard.
Talking only of the Southeast Asian Games (SEAG), and leaving aside the much bigger world of the Asian games and the Olympics, where competition is much tougher, it must be said that our experience during the age of PNoy has been unremitting disappointment and defeat.
In 2005, when the Philippines last hosted the SEAG, with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the helm, our country and athletes took first place in the medal standings, with Thailand coming in second.
At the close of the recent 2015 SEA Games in Singapore, the Philippines and its athletes came out sixth in the medal standings. Thailand and Singapore placed first and second.
We can, if we wish, console ourselves with the thought that this 6th-place finish is an improvement on our 7th-place finish in the 2013 SEAG in Myanmar, where we were surpassed for the first time by tiny Singapore.
A populous but mediocre sports nation
With a population of over 100 million (second only to Indonesia with its population of 252 million), the Philippines perplexes many in how Singapore, with its population of 5.4 million, can outperform our people and our country in the SEA games.
There is talk today that in the next SEAG, if the Philippines were to be represented only by the athletes of Central Visayas and Metro Manila, we Filipinos will not only fare better at the games, we will leave Singapore biting the dust.
How did we Filipinos decline so quickly in sports in just a decade?
This is the country that has produced Manny Pacquiao, the incomparable boxing great; many world champions in the game of pool or billiards, like the legendary Efren “Bata” Reyes, and many world champions in bowling, such as the great Paeng Nepomuceno.
To be sure, the decline did not occur only during the presidency of BS Aquino. This is a rot that has been taking place for some time. Aquino’s indifference merely accelerated the process.
All this is puzzling because in 2010, Aquino’s accession to the presidency raised, at first, moderate hopes for a boost to sports development and performance, because of certain circumstantial factors.
The president of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) is his uncle and President Cory’s brother, Jose “Peping” Cojuangco. The POC takes overall charge of selecting athletes for international competitions.
With many relatives involved in sports, it was supposed that Aquino would cast a solicitous eye on national sports.
Instead, the opposite happened. Aquino dismissed sports as unworthy of his attention.
Sports official tells all
In a revealing piece for the Daily Tribune (“Noynoy and Sports”, Tribune, 17 June 2015), journalist Aldrin Cardona has lifted the lid over this puzzling mystery in Philippine sports.
He reports that Philippine sports officials are now exposing the extent of neglect by President Aquino of Filipino athletes. Philippine Chief of Mission in SEA games 2015 Joey Romasanta has delivered a strong rebuke of Aquino’s leadership.
Joey disclosed that the president has not faced our national athletes since he was elected in 2010. The best he ever did was to send a representative during the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea last year.
Aquino, Joey said, was only keen on opening the palace doors to popular athletes — like the members of the Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University volleyball teams, who figured in a finals showdown in the UAAP; and in a couple of times, to boxer Manny Pacquiao. Never did Aquino openly express his support to “national athletes who fought well and bravely on the international front.”
In the recent Singapore SEA Games, Malacañang only released a prepared statement after Team Philippines won its first gold medal, courtesy of triathlete Claire Adorna.
Aquino was not heard from again until the end of the games.
Not surprisingly, because of the near total presidential neglect, Peping’s relationship with his nephew soured.
Cardona reports: “If stories are true, family dinners were said to have ended in verbal matches among family members.”
Peping went on to call on President Aquino to resign at the height of the controversy over the DAP and the Mamasapano massacre of 44 Special Action Force commandos.
A glue for national unity and pride
Aquino’s neglect of sports as an area of national endeavor is both unfortunate and ignorant.
Sports, as opinion surveys and the media have often noted, is one of the glues of national unity and pride. People naturally take pride in the achievements of their best athletes.
According to Mitt Romney in his book on the US hosting of the 1999 Winter Olympic games, the Olympics helped heal the American nation after 9/11. “The spirit of patriotism flowed unrestrained in the wake of the attacks of September 11. They helped bring the nation and the world together.
“This is what makes sports so compelling to the world. Sports makes heroes. Young men and women, for the right reasons, at the right time, step up and do something breathtaking. They capture our hearts and stir the imagination.”
President Aquino is totally unaware of this transcendent dimension of sports. He cannot see or feel this because he suffers from a grave case of narcissistic personality disorder.