Philippine Olympic president to face public rally

The Philippine Sports Commission's offices in Manila. Photo: Lars Andersson

19.09.2017

By Lars Andersson
Another ‘Thrilla in Manila’ goes down on 21 September. This time, though, it is not a boxer taking severe punches. Instead, a president of a National Olympic Committee enters the ring. Will he survive?

At 9 AM on 21 September 2017, people will gather at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Metro Manila, Philippines. Similar rallies will be held in Cebu and Davao City. In all three places, sports athletes, coaches, managers, leaders, politicians and aficionados will be gathered under the parole; “Peping Resign”.

But it is not a public uprising against a dictator as in the days of Ferdinand Marcos. Peping’s full name is Jose ‘Peping’ Cojuangco Jr.. The 83 year-old man from the political dynasty Cojuangco/Aquino is the president of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC). Since January 2005, he has ruled Philippine sports, allegedly with equal parts power politics, corruption, kickbacks, patronage and private toy and business (see ‘It’s all about money, power and politics’). But a historically poor performance in the recent Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, has brought the problems in Philippine sports to light.

Everybody is sick and tired
“Enough is enough,” Edgardo Cantada, one of the men behind the initiative and the president of the Philippine Volleyball Federation (PVF), says to Play the Game.

“Jose ‘Peping’ Cojuangco Jr. has been in power for years. He has suppressed by disenfranchising National Sports Associations (NSA) that have not been supporting him. His reign in the POC has been characterised by patronage and corruption,” Cantada says.

PVF is one of many excluded sports federations, in whose place Jose ‘Peping’ Cojuangco Jr. in some of them has inserted his henchmen. Others are swimming, bowling and dragon boat (see ‘With all due respect; It is an abuse of power’).

Or, as Ramon Fernandez, one of four sports commissioners at the Philippine state’s Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), which supports sport in the Philippines, puts it:

“I support the rally personally and I support it as a commissioner. It’s a call for the POC to call for a general assembly and a call for a democratic election. The rally on 21 September will let Peping know that Filipinos are sick and tired of his leadership. Everybody are calling for his resignation,” he says to Play the Game.

Edgardo Cantada, Ramon Fernandez and their peers have slowly gained momentum. The excluded federations support the gathering and, apparently, a lot of people have ‘come to their senses’, as Edgardo Cantada says. According to Play the Game’s sources, high profile sports leaders, friends and yearlong allies of Jose ‘Peping’ Cojuangco Jr. will step forward at the rally on 21 September and speak against Peping and his reign.

“I have very influential personalities working behind the scenes for us, swaying people to our side. We hope this movement would snow ball. We are in for the long haul. There will be some surprises on 21 September,” Edgardo Cantada says.

Legal actions against the NOC
Maybe, the rally in Manila will be a new ‘thrilla in Manila’ as Muhammad Ali expressed it back in 1975, before his historic boxing match against Joe Frazier. However, it is certain that the ball game is not over with the rallies – as Joe Frazier’s trainer, Eddie Futch, said to his boxer between round 14 and 15 in one of the best boxing matches of all time; the political power struggle in Philippine sports will go on. Just after the rallies in Manila, Cebu and Davao City sports commissioner Ramon Fernandez will file a criminal case against Jose ‘Peping’ Cojuangco Jr., he announces to Play the Game.

“I will, with others, file a case in the judicial system about the undocumented use of funds from PSC to POC. It’s about the 37 million pesos, 722,000 dollars, of unliquidated funding for hosting SEAG 2005 and the 129 million pesos, 2.5 million dollars, from PSC to POC in the period from 2010 to 2016,” Ramon Fernandez says.

“The Commission of Audit (the state department tasked with the audit of all government revenues, resources and other expenditures, ed.) will get a letter too,” he says.

However, a court case in the Philippines can last for years. Meanwhile, Jose ‘Peping’ Cojuangco Jr. has won a minor victory; the SEAG 2019 will be hosted by the Philippines. Back in July 2017, the chairman of PSC, Butch Ramirez, otherwise announced that the country was withdrawing as a host of the games. In August, however, the Department of Foreign Affairs declared that the Philippines will indeed host the games with the foreign affairs secretary Alan Peter Cayetano to serve as a chairman of the organising committee. According to Ramon Fernandez, this is to secure that the POC will not be able to ‘get to the money’:

“It will cost at least one billion pesos, 19.5 million dollars, and the state will fund it. But the financial will Alan Peter Cayetano take care of, not the POC. We will prepare peacefully for the SEAG 2019,” he states.

U-turn in Philippine sports?
As the fight goes on, maybe we should leave the last word to Nikki Coseteng, chairman of the excluded Philippine Swimming League, as she explained Philippine sports back in September 2016 to Play the Game:

“Philippine sports are doomed. Unless change are here. Philippine sports are run by tyrants. Transparency and democracy? We don’t know those words in the Philippines.”   

In the meantime, we are waiting to see who will be knocked out in the new ‘Thrilla in Manila’ on 21 September at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

Play the Game has tried to get a comment from Jose ‘Peping’ Cojuangco Jr., but has gotten no reply.

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