President vs. El Presidente

Last month, when Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano resuscitated our nation’s bid to host the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, I thought that unity in sports would follow.

When the DFA chieftain sat in front of the table with the Philippine Sports Commission chairman in one side and the Philippine Olympic Committee president on the other, I thought that partisanship and bickering had ended.

I was mistaken. Politics in sport is lousy. Sport brings unity. (Just don’t ask Donald Trump!) Sport does not care if you’re black or white or Filipino or Spaniard or Roman Catholic or Muslim. Sport transcends all divisions and focuses on a human being’s capacity to endure physical and mental suffering to triumph.

That’s the beauty of sport. It connects people. It joins different personalities and the outcome — who’s the fastest or stongest — is determined by one’s heart and not color of skin.

So I was happy to learn of our SEAG hosting two years from now. We were at the brink of informing our Asean neighbors that we were backing out.. only for Cayetano to assume the chairmanship and say, Yes, we’re hosting.

Now, the question: Given that politics in sport is distressing and ugly, is the latest move headed by PSC Commissioner Ramon Fernandez a good one? Last Wednesday, the 6-foot-5 Cebuano who won four PBA MVP crowns and 19 championship trophies led the community in demanding one outcome: Oust Peping.

It’s El Presidente against the POC President. The PBA’s all-time leading scorer with 18,996 points and all-time rebounder with 8,652 rebounds against the 83-year-old Jose Cojuangco, Jr. who has been the all-time longest running POC president.

My opinion on this battle? As much as I am for peace and unity, especially in sports, I am supporting Mon Fernandez. So are a vast majority of people, including athletes.

Why does Peping want to hang on to a position that has given our nation poor results and where he’s being lambasted by almost every sector in our sports community?

Power. That’s the only reason I can come up with. It can’t be “because I want to improve sports.” He’s had three full POC terms (totaling 12 years) and the results are worsening. He’s presided over seven SEA Games and, counting the total medals by Team PHL, we’ve won… 291 medals (in 2005), 228 (2007), 124 (2009), 169 (2011), 101 (2013), 131 (2015), and last month, 121 medals. Notice the deteriorating pattern? It can’t be “because I promise change.” He and his cohorts cannot win this argument because he is much older than, say, Ricky Vargas, who ran against him in last year’s POC elections.

Power. Given that the Cojuangcos are out of political power, he just wants to hang on to this power, via sports. It’s unfortunate, selfish, unpatriotic.

There’s still time. We are at the early stages of preparing for SEAG 2019. If there’s any good time for a change in leadership, it’s now. If he wants to be remembered as a good sportsman, he should do the right thing. The question begs: Is Peping willing?

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