POC-PSC war: Anatomy of a dispute
The bone of contention can’t get any clearer than this for the feuding Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) and the government’s Philippine Sports Commission (PSC):
Would you let an old partner who pays for your rent and utilities and provides your children pocket money and free training have a say in how you fix your own house?
The POC says the PSC can’t, citing the evils of government intervention in sports.
The PSC claims it has the right to make demands, short of actual intervention, since the POC and its NSAs (national sports associations) draw succor from the government.
The dispute wouldn’t have come to this if longtime POC president Jose Cojuangco Jr., the man ultimately responsible for the country’s miserable performances in international multisport competitions, had ignored social media snipings and refrained from accusing the PSC of interference in POC affairs.
The octogenarian Cojuangco went one step further: He denounced PSC Commissioner Ramon Fernandez, a staunch critic, as a “game-fixer” and said he had proof the former basketball star was engaged in point shaving during his heyday.
Cojuangco’s verbal assault made PSC Chair William “Butch” Ramirez livid. He advised the POC to find new sources of funds if it “didn’t want the agency to meddle in its affairs.”
After all, Ramirez said, several NSAs still have to liquidated cash advances amounting to P150 million.
“We respect their independence,” said the PSC chief. “But if they don’t want us to meddle, then stop asking funds from us. The law says that we can exercise visitorial and supervisory powers to make sure that the people’s money is spent well.”
The verbal skirmish boils down to a clash of principles.
“We’re in charge of training our national athletes and the PSC’s role is to fund everything the athletes need,” Cojuangco insisted.
Fernandez said he would file a libel case against Cojuangco in Cebu City after consulting his lawyers.
“He called me a game-fixer when he should have called me a team-fixer because I helped my teams win championships,” said the four-time PBA MVP, a member of 19 champion teams in the pro league.
Cojuangco said Fernandez started it all. “He was critical of me from the very beginning,” the 82-year-old former Tarlac congressman said. “He even said they intend to take over the POC, that the PSC should run sports in the Philippines.
“I don’t want to talk [about Fernandez’s alleged game fixing] anymore. But if they demand it, I’ll tell them what I know.”
Fernandez has since resumed the offensive on social media. Last week he posted documents showing the POC had received P38 million from the government agency to fund the country’s hosting of the Asian Centennial Games Festival in 2014.
At first glance, nothing seemed irregular about the fund, until Fernandez claimed that the POC received tens of millions from the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) specifically to spend for the festival, which was attended by national Olympic committee leaders from 43 countries.
“He (Cojuangco) should return the money,” said Fernandez.
Coming to Cojuangco’s aid, POC secretary general Steve Hontiveros said all financial assistance from the PSC have been properly liquidated, complete with corresponding documents and receipts.
Ramirez said Cojuangco should answer Fernandez’s allegations squarely. “After all, the documents emanated from the PSC,” he pointed out.
“Inspite of the conflict, our support to the athletes and coaches have been stronger and we’re committed to support them even beyond [the] 2020 [Tokyo Olympics].”
Cojuangco and Ramirez go a long way. The two were just starting their first terms as heads of the two sports bodies in 2005 when they brought the Philippines to the pinnacle of success in the Southeast Asian Games. That was the only time the Filipino athletes won the coveted overall championship in the biennial meet.
When President Duterte came to power in July last year, Ramirez, the Davao City mayor’s most reliable sports manager, returned to his old post.
Ramirez said the dispute should not sidetrack the PSC from bringing sports to the countryside and strengthening the grassroots program ordered by Duterte. “We don’t have time to pick a fight,” he said.
Cojuangco, meanwhile, said the row with the PSC might only distract the athletes. “We’re busy preparing for the Southeast Asian Games and the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games. We need to focus,” he said.