See Games


Two Fridays ago, I arrived in Manila to watch the Southeast Asian Games. 

Since the SEAG started in Bangkok in 1959, the Philippines has hosted it three times. The first was in 1981 (Marcos time); the second was during Cory’s term in 1991; and the third in 2005 under GMA.

Fourteen years after we won our only SEAG overall title, the biennial event returned to PHI.

I watched two sports. The first event that I witnessed was my favorite: tennis. The men’s singles final was about to start but, unfortunately, no Pinoys were playing. The day before, Jeson Patrombon and AJ Lim played in the semis but lost. It was an all-Vietnamese men’s final that was won by Ly Hoang Nam.

The second match was more exciting: Treat Huey and Ruben Gonzales were playing the men’s doubles semifinals. For the Cebuano tennis fans, you’ve probably seen these two Fil-Ams. They came to Cebu to play Davis Cup at Plantation Bay. 

Treat (pronounced as “Tret”) is not only one of Asia’s best but one of the world’s best in doubles. Three years ago, he ranked as high as world no. 18. A left-hander, his serve tops 130 mph. His volleys are Federer-like. Ruben Gonzales, who stands 6-foot-1, possesses an equally booming serve. The duo easily dispatched of their Vietnamese foes in straight sets.

Niño Alcantara and Jeson Patrombon were next to play the semis. Both Bisaya hailing from Mindanao, this pair is spitfire-quick. They sprint to the net and pound on the volleys with precision. The pair won in two easy sets. 

The following day, it was an all-Pinoy doubles final (which I was unable to watch) and the underdogs, Niño and Jeson, won the gold, 7-6, 7-5. 

The two gold medalists are in Cebu now — they joined the Palawan Pawnshop event in the bailiwick of Naga City (tennis-playing) mayor Val Chiong.

Back to SEAG tennis, the venue was Rizal Memorial. This sprawling complex, which opened in 1934, is an iconic sports ground. With tennis, the surface is hard-court and, for the 2019 SEAG, brand-new chairs were installed in the bleachers. 

VOLLEYBALL. Together with my daughter Jana, I also watched women’s volleyball. The atmosphere was as festive as the Sinulog and as loud as the U2 concert. Alyssa Valdez, Jia Morado, Mika Reyes and Aby Marano are some of the most famous players — not just for volleyball but for all of Philippine sports.

We played Indonesia. After losing to Thailand and Vietnam, this was our chance for redemption. Our lady spikers won the first set and led nearing the end of the 2nd set. But we played bad after that. We lost the 2nd, 3rd and 4th sets. (Two days later, we played Indonesia again for the bronze but lost once more.)

The volleyball games were played in PhilSports Arena. Formerly called ULTRA, this was the venue of the PBA games in the 1980s and ‘90s. With a seating capacity of 10,000, the PhilSports Arena was intimate — which resulted in a louder, more festive sports atmosphere.

The most popular among all the 530 events in the SEA Games? No, it’s not basketball or badminton or boxing. It’s women’s volleyball. 


Philippine National Games

It was 21 years ago — back in 1997 — when Cebu last hosted the PNG. It’s about time! Shall we have the Palarong Pambansa next? Cebu has not organized the Palaro since 1994. Yes, why not; but that’s another story.

The PNG is, in the words of the lead organizer Ramon Fernandez, “the Olympics of Philippine sports.” The PBA great turned PSC Commissioner Fernandez adds: “This is the elite of the elite, the cream of the crop athletes in our country, national team members will represent their LGUs.”

Who are eligible to join? If you’re a Filipino aged 16 and above, you can participate. Just enlist yourself under a specific city or province and, if you’re one of their best, you can compete. Participation is for free.

Pres. Digong Duterte was scheduled to open the PNG yesterday at the Abellana grounds. The Opening Ceremony, we are sure, was another spectacular show — thanks to Ricky Ballesteros, who has organized dozens of the country’s best presentations, ranging from the Milo Olympics to the Sinulog.

The PNG games run from May 19 to 25 and will be played mostly in Cebu City (except for softball at the Mactan Airbase, triathlon and duathlon in Tabuelan, cycling in Danao, and women’s tennis in Naga). Only two sports, gymnastics and rugby football, will be played in Manila because of our lack of facilities here.

If you’re a mall-goer, SM Seaside City will host arnis, karatedo, judo and taekwondo. Robinsons Galleria will host chess, dancesport and table tennis.

There will be 21 sports played: athletics, archery, arnis, badminton, boxing, chess, cycling, dancesport, judo, karatedo, sepak takraw, softball, swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis, triathlon, volleyball, and weightlifting.

Interestingly, two of our country’s most famous games — basketball and football — are excluded.

It’s great to see that the city and province are teaming up for this major co-hosting job. Edward Hayco of Cebu City and Atty. Ramil Abing representing the province have joined forces. This tandem is formidable; Ed and Ramil are passionate, selfless, sports-loving and organized.

The PNG as a national event is important. It serve as an avenue for the national teams to choose their top performers. Based on the Cebu results, many will wear our Phil. uniform to compete abroad.

In all, over 3,000 competitors will be competing in this 7-day sportsfest. PSC’s Ramon Fernandez plans for the PNG to be a biennial meet, similar to that of the SEAG (which the Philippines is hosting next year).

The winning athletes will receive medals and accolades. But they’re not the only recipients of awards. The PNG will also serve as competition for the Local Government Units. There will be 96 LGUs joining with the top LGU receiving P5 million (that will go to their sports program) of the total P15 million in sporting assistance.

Cebu is proud to welcome and host the PNG.

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?

Worst SEAG finish

Our sports leaders projected a haul of 50 gold medals in Kuala Lumpur. They badly missed the target. Instead, Team PHL finished with only 24 gold medals. How bad is this result? Two years ago in Singapore, we collected 29. We pocketed the same 29 first-prize medals in Myanmar in 2013. Prior to that, we performed much better: 36 gold in Jakarta (2011), 38 in Laos (2009), 41 in Thailand (2007) and our biggest harvest in our SEAG history, a whopping 113 gold medals when he hosted in 2005.

What happened? We have been slipping, sliding, sinking and slumping. As each odd year passes, we deteriorate. We sent 497 athletes and 163 officials and got humiliated. Imagine 113 gold medals in 2005 and a dozen years later we’re down to 24? What’s sad is this: there will be plenty of finger-pointing among the POC and PSC and NSAs and many other three-letter organizations but, after months pass, all is forgotten.

The only good news? It’s our hosting of SEAG 2019. For sure, given that we own the homecourt advantage and get to choose the events, our standing will improve. It’s possible we’ll collect 50, 75 or 94 in 24 months’ time.

This Southeast Asian Games practice of allowing the host nation to choose the events it wants is gaining controversy. One of the complainants is Thailand. Back in 2015, Thailand was the overall champion of this 11-nation meet, winning 95 gold medals versus the 84 won by Singapore. This was two years ago. This week, they only won 70 and were clobbered by the 142 gold medals of the hosts. (In contrast, Malaysia only got 62 gold medals in 2015. That’s an increase of 80 gold medals!)

“They organise sports they are good at and do not organise sports other countries are good at,” said Thana Chaiprasit, Thailand’s delegation chief.

Unlike the Olympics which relies on the 90-member International Olympic Committee (IOC) to decide on the events, the SEAG has a different format. The host nation decides. (Speaking of the IOC, the Philippines only has one representative: Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski, the daughter of POC President Peping Cojuangco.)

This I-get-to-choose-my-games arrangment has resulted in the host nation often defying the conventional results. In the last 10 SEA Games hostings, six host nations emerged overall champions.

As examples: Malaysia’s 62 gold medals in 2015 became 142 this week. As for the Philippines’ 24 gold medals today, we have reason to smile in the months ahead. When we hosted in 2005, we garnered an improbable 113 gold medals.

Mr. Chaiprasit of Thailand complained that Malaysia dropped women’s boxing and included squash. Malaysia even included ice hockey and ice skating (a SEAG first), maybe to increase it’s tally. And if you’re wondering why we haven’t heard about Hidilyn Diaz, who won silver at the Olympics? That’s because they scrapped women’s weightlifting!

What does this mean for the Philippines? It means that from the lowliest of scores that we received this week (24 gold), we have a chance to reverse this because of this crazy, almost-unfair rule.

For 2019 and to gain back our No. 1 spot, I suggest we include takyan, patintero, sungka, jack-en-poy, holen, and tubig-tubig.

Buddy Andrada: Why, why, why?

I don’t understand this penchant for clinging on to power forever. Take the case of Col. Salvador Andrada. I’ve known him since 1986. That was the year when I started joining tennis tournaments. That was the year Andrada became president of the Philippine Tennis Association (Philta).

For 20 years until 2006, Andrada was Philta chieftain. Was that dynasty too long? Absolutely. It’s not like he produced a Pinoy version of Djokovic or Murray or Kerber. (Come to think of it, those three were not even born when Andrada headed Philta in ’86!)

If you find that two-decade-long overstaying tenure as ludicrous, wait till you hear this: Andrada is back. He reinstated himself last June. Unbelievable. As we say in Bisaya, baga ug nawong.

When Jean Henri Lhuillier (the main backer of the Davis Cup team and the CEO of Cebuana Lhuillier), and Philta VP Randy Villanueva (who helped bring the five Davis Cup sorties here in Plantation Bay Resort and Spa) questioned Andrada’s return, he vowed to step down. But, as the cliche goes, promises are meant to be broken. In a Philta board meeting last Wednesday — just after our Davis Cup team, led by Ruben Gonzales and Treat Huey, defeated Indonesia — the transfer of power was to have been effected.

Lhuillier, 47, would preside as the new Philta head and Andrada would gracefully exit. But like a stinging backhand that stabbed Jean Henri flatfooted, Andrada reversed his decision.

“We walked out of the meeting because we were made to understand during our last board meeting that Col. Andrada had decided to step down for health reasons,” Lhuillier said. “As it turned out, this was not the case.”

I know Jean Henri and you cannot find someone with more enthusiasm and passion for tennis. He is selfless, humble, approachable, has contributed tens of millions to the game, and whose only objective is for the upliftment of Philippine tennis.

I do not understand the Philta board members who voted for Andrada over Lhuillier, namely Romy Magat, Paranaque Mayor Edwin Olivarez, Dr. Pablo Olivarez (attending in behalf of daughter Edna Nguyen), and the father and son Manny and Martin Misa. They have plenty of explaining to do.

“We wanted to participate in this election properly,” said Randy Villanueva, “but they misled us and now we’ll look at our legal options.”

Andrada is a “trapo;” an 82-year-old career politician disguised as a sportsman. Power-hungry. Selfish. Old. Like his buddy Peping Cojuangco.

Mon Fernandez: an athlete fighting for athletes

Screen Shot 2017-01-26 at 8.05.10 AM

(Photo from Ascano)

I spoke to the man often called “The greatest Filipino ballplayer” last Friday. In a freewheeling exchange that touched on topics like the Phil. Sports Institute and Batang Pinoy and how he’s grown taller and now stands 6-foot-7, Ramon Fernandez is one of us. He’s Bisaya. Born in Leyte and now residing in Cebu, his goal is to extend the reach of sports beyond Metro Manila.

“I’ll be visiting more cities around the Visayas in February,” said the 63-year-old PSC Commissioner. “Under my responsibility are the Phil. National Games (PNG), the University Games, collegiate games like the UAAP and CESAFI, and more.”

He wants to institutionalize the Batang Pinoy. “Last year, it included the 17-and-under category but we’re bringing it back to purely 15 and below,” Fernandez said. “PNG is for 18 and above. For those between 15 to 18, we’ll have a tertiary league.”

Mon and I talked about the PSC and POC. They had a gathering early this month in Tagaytay where the functions of each sports body was clarified.

“We now have a clear delineation of roles,” he said. “We made it clear that the National Sports Associaitons (NSAs) are the ones responsible for preparing the athletes for international competition: the SEA Games, Asian Games, Olympics. The role of the POC is to accredit these athletes chosen by the NSAs. Finally, for us at the PSC, we are tasked to supply the funding for the training of the athletes. We have no say with regards to the choosing of the players and coaches. But we help in sending them abroad and with their incentives.”

Part of POC’s role, Fernandez added, is to help in athlete development and in the training of coaches. “Visit the IOC website and check the Olympic Solidarity Committee,” he said, noting the 2015 report for each NOC and how other nations have availed of these progams.

“We never knew that. What’s sad is the POC availed of only one program called ‘Sports For All’ that had a small budget. There are various other programs that the POC could have availed of with millions of dollars as budget,” he said.

“We just had a meeting with the Leyte Sports Academy officers and they told us of their visit to Peping Cojuangco after Yolanda. And instead of getting assistance, they were scolded by Peping. I got mad. You guys better tell me all of this! I’m setting up a media bureau so that complaints of athletes can be heard.”

El Presidente the Commissioner

When I asked Ramon Fernandez — possibly the greatest player our basketball-crazy nation has ever produced — if he still follows the PBA or watches Durant or Westbrook, the answer was as swift as Mon’s famous one-handed running shot: No.

Apart from Manny Pacquiao and Robert Jaworkski, and maybe Efren Reyes and James Yap, there is no sportsman in our 7,107 islands who is more recognizable than Mon.

Just revisit with me his PBA statistics: four MVP awards and 19 championship trophies that saw him don the uniforms for San Miguel, Purefoods, Tanduay, Manila Beer and Toyota. He is the PBA’s all-time leading scorer with 18,996 points and his 8,652 rebounds is No. 1 in the league’s 41-year-old history. He is the all-time leader in blocks and minutes played, and ranks second in assists (to Jaworski) and in steals (to Johnny Abarrientos). In a PBA career that spanned 22 years, his statistics are akin to combining the records of Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain.

But when I attempted to talk basketball with him in our 20-minute conversation the other night, he pivoted and dribbled way. The reason: El President is now PSC Commissioner. His game encompases all of Philippine sports.

When Pres. Duterte assembled his team to lead PHL sports last July, at the top of his list was Butch Ramirez, his long-time friend and the former head of Davao sports (and the PSC). Next, he recommended a sports giant whom he’s idolized since the 1970s.

Mon Fernandez is one of four Phil. Sports Commission (PSC) commisioners that include Charles Maxey, Celia Kiram and Arnold Agustin.

“For the last six months,” Mon said, “we have been busy cleaning house, putting the PSC house in order. We have been meeting with various stakeholders: the Local Govt. Units (LGUs), the National Sports Associations (NSAs), schools, athletes.”

The commissioner has been part of a listening tour, collecting inputs from everyone. And the good news is, led by a Davaoeño president and a Davaoeño PSC head in Butch Ramirez, our national sports programs are no longer limited to the secluded gates of Imperial Manila. That was the complaint before; everything’s in Manila: the money, facilities, coaches. And the Maasin, Leyte-born Fernandez, who has called Cebu home for the past many years, especially after his marriage to the dynamic Karla Kintanar, is one reason for this change. Said Mon: “We are decentralizing sports.” 

I hope Vargas loses and Vargas wins

One is first-named Jessie and the other is called Ricky.

Let’s start with Jessie. He’s 27 years old, was born in Los Angeles, California, stands 5-foot-10 and will weigh 147 lbs. when he climbs the ring next weekend against Sen. Pacquiao.

Jessie is 10 years younger and four inches taller than Manny. He has fought 28 times and won 27 — the only loss in his career was, coincidentally, against the man Pacquiao last defeated: Timothy Bradley. In Jessie’s loss to Bradley in June of last year, the duo danced all the way to the 12th round before Bradley won by UD. Right after that loss, Jessie fought Sadam Ali and won a 9th round TKO last March. That victory handed him the WBO welterweight crown.

With his fight against Pacquiao next weekend, it’s not surprising that among all of MP’s recent fights, this one has garnered the least hype. After promising to quit boxing, Manny — like most politicians do — reversed course and reneged on his promise.

“Every day I was able to run in the morning and then train after the Senate session,” said Pacquiao. “The gym is very close to the Senate.”

Given Pacquiao’s impressive showing against Bradley in their fight last April, many are expecting a straightforward win for our Pinoy hero.

“I don’t want to underestimate him,” said Pacquiao. “People say it is going to be an easy fight for me. But it is my experience that whenever I underestimate my opponent it is trouble for me.”

This is the first Vargas: Jessie. Obviously, we want him to lose.

The second Vargas? He’s Ricky. He, too, is a fighter but he’s waged his battles in the corporate world as a top executive of Manny V. Pangilinan’s group of companies that include First Pacific and PLDT. So when MVP asked Mr. Vargas to spearhead the Association of Boxing Alliances of the Philippines (ABAP), he said yes.

One of the privileges of being the head of a National Sports Association (NSA) like ABAP is that you can vie for the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) presidency.

Ricky has decided to challenge Jose “Peping” Cojuangco for the top position of the POC. I’ve written in this piece before and I’ll say it again: It’s time for Peping to go. I concur with the stand of my sports editor Mike Limpag.

Peping Cojuangco has had three terms as POC head and he wants a fourth? What accomplishments — especially in the Olympics — can he show?

So, like Pacquiao-Vargas, we have the Cojuangco-Vargas fight.

The only problem? Vargas — the good one, the Pinoy — has been disqualified from challenging Peping. Former IOC representative Frank Elizalde headed the three-man election committee that decided against Vargas. The reason: he was unable to attend the prerequisite number of POC meetings. (What makes this even more “political” is that Peping’s daughter, Mikee Jaworski, is an IOC member.)

Ricky Vargas is crying foul. The term “active participation” (the basis) is a debatable term that can mean sending representatives in behalf of ABAP to attend the meetings.

PSC Chairman Butch Ramirez said this in an interview: “I don’t question the wisdom of the Comelec of the POC, but for me, in the spirit of sportsmanship, it could’ve been a source of understanding, unity, discipline, value and integrity. Those people should have been allowed (to run) especially if the rule says active membership.”

Ever the gentleman and polite sportsman, Ramirez is correct. What happens next is this: Vargas has vowed to challenge the ruling. He has until Nov. 2 to submit his protest and the ruling can go all the way to the POC membership for decision-making.

If my counting is correct, there are 42 NSAs that will vote for the POC leadership. I’m not even sure that Vargas has the numbers to supplant Cojuangco. As sad as it it, politics is embedded with sports and, in elections like these, political weaponry is at work. Ricky Vargas said: “Give election a chance. Give sports a chance. Give democracy a chance.”

P-Noy? No, says the Pinoy president

(Photo from the Phil. Daily Inquirer)


I voted for Benigno Aquino III. Prior to May 2010, I thought Gibo possessed more intelligence and charisma, believed in Dick Gordon’s street smarts, knew Sen. Manny Villar had billions more and, well, with Erap, found him funny, even laughable, during the CICC presidential debate. Yet, I voted for the only son of “The greatest Filipino president we never had.” That martyr’s name was Ninoy Aquino. I chose Noynoy because of his humility and honesty.

Given his latest “sports” announcement, I was proven right. Though insignificant to many, it speaks plenty on the person who leads our overcrowded nation of 92,000,000 people. What announcement?

Last Monday, the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) had a long-overdue hour-long meeting with Pres. Noynoy. In attendance were the PSC Chairman Richie Garcia, the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) Chairman Peping Cojuangco, Jr., and PSC Commissioner Jolly Benitez. The meeting was held in Malacañang.

Among many topics on sports, the main discussion centered on a nationwide event that’s labeled “PNG.” Previously called the “Philippine National Games” and held during the years 1993 to 1996, this tournament was to be revived this 2011. An estimated 31 national sports associations are requested to join the Olympics-patterned event. This is a magnificent boost to PHL sports. The PNG will be held in Bacolod City (mainly at the ‘Azkals home-court,’ the Panaad Sports Complex) this May 23 to 28.

What’s the difference between this PNG with the one of 15 years ago? The name. Our sports officials wanted to call it by another name: P-Noy National Games. Nothing wrong with that, right? The acronym is still PNG. The head of our nation — and our total sports program — is P-Noy. Plus, his name “P-Noy” rhymes with “Pinoy” which, of course, refers to you and me. We’re Pinoys.

P-Noy National Games. Go! But, wait. When informed three days ago about this seemingly minor change from “Philippine” to “P-Noy,” our president said, Wait… hold it right there… Why the name change? Well, said Richie Garcia, you’re P-Noy and these games are for the Pinoys. Go?

No. The person that you and I and 15.2 million others voted for displayed an act of humility. He said no. He asked the top sports officials to stick with the original name, Phil. National Games. Had P-Noy agreed with Garcia and Cojuangco, his uncle, on the P-Noy Natl. Games, nobody would have complained. Because don’t politicians employ this strategy all the time? To plaster their faces, to advertise their names, to promote their accomplishments through sports?

Yes. This is the Pinoy Way. The Pinoy Politicians Tactic. Which brings me to ask: When public servants use their names to promote themselves — and less the sporting event — are they paying for the tournament themselves? Is it their money being used? No. It’s the Pinoys’ money. It’s our money. It’s your money. It’s my money. It’s our money that these elected officials are using to promote…. themselves.

This latest P-Noy decision did not land on any of the major headline stories. I found it not in Phil. Star or the Phil. Daily Inquirer or in Manila Bulletin. I read it in Malaya under the title, “It’s simply called PH Nat’l Games.”

“‘President Aquino said ‘Huwag na lang and just call it the Philippine National Games’ when he asked him if we could use the P-Noy Games for the meet,’ said PSC chief Richie Garcia, who attended the one-hour meeting with POC president Jose Cojuangco Jr. and Commissioner Jolly Benitez,” read the story written by Bong Pedralvez last Tuesday. “‘The President said this event is for the Philippines so it would be best to call it the Philippine National Games,’ Garcia added.”

Here’s my hope: In the future, when our local officials concoct sporting events, that they’ll feel guilty about advertising their name. Go, P-Noy? the president is asked. No. Go, Pinoy.

Richie Garcia: Politics has no place in sports

(Sun.Star Cebu photo)

The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman holds the title as the highest-ranking sports official of our 7,107 islands. Last Thursday, thanks to Marko Sarmiento, I had a 30-minute, one-on-one chat with PSC Chairman Ricardo R. Garcia at the veranda of the Cebu Country Club. Wearing golf attire and sporting a smile after he carded a 2-over 74 in the Coral Invitational (partnering 8-time CCC champion Montito Garcia), Mr. Garcia revealed these thoughts in our Q & A:

“I started as PSC chairman last July, having been a commissioner in the past for about seven years. The responsibilities now are much, much more. I have a very good Board of Directors. We are a working board. We meet every week. We have no hidden or political agenda. In fact, we are so transparent that we post everything in Facebook. All the board resolutions and check issuances are available for the public to see.

“PSC-POC partnership? This is crucial. Today, we are two bodies working as one. The PSC-POC has never been closer. We are one. This was the same during the time of Michael Keon. In the last presidential term, the PSC-POC relationship was the worst. It was like black and white. During the SEA Games, for example, there were two sets of planes that carried both groups. There were two sets of uniforms. It was bad.

“Politics has no place in sports. Although we are all political appointees, our agenda should not be political. We have one goal: to improve Philippine sports.

“Monico Puentevalla, the POC chairman, was my schoolmate in La Salle Bacolod. We’ve been together since grade school. He graduated high school Class ’65; I finished in ’64. I was a varsity player in elementary in football and basketball. Then I moved to Taft for college. I’ve also known Peping Cojuangco. I played for the Luisita golf team. We are a good team and have teamwork.

“On the issue of Palaro: The POC suggests that we, the PSC, run the Palaro. I said, sure, we can do that. But our problem is the organization. Compared to the DepEd, which already has the structure to operate the Palaro, we don’t. The Palaro is grassroots and encompasses the entire country. We may not have the capability to operate the entire program.

“With the Batang Pinoy, we will revive it. This was the project of Monico while he was at the PSC. After Monico left, this program stopped. Now, we are bringing it back. Batang Pinoy is good because it involves, apart from students, the out-of-school youth. We will directly be coordinating with the DILG on this.

“President Noy? Unfortunately, we have never had time to sit down and talk about sports. We have sent him a letter requesting for his time but, as of now, we have yet to meet. It’s okay. I understand that he has so many other priorities at this point.

“Cut red tape. That’s one of my top priorities. Before, many of our suppliers were middlemen. We would be purchasing items at 30 percent more. The reason? These middlemen ‘magpa-utang.’ I said, ‘This is not right.’ The government is losing money. Being a businessman — and not a politician — helps. I look for ways to save. And so, for this year, we are expecting savings of P70 million. For the security guards alone, there used to be 200 guards. Now, it’s 90. Why did we need so many guards? And many of them were “ghost” guards who never even reported. And so, with security alone, we save P2 million per month. With the janitorial services, it’s P1 million per month. On those two services, that’s P36 million in savings per year. On the procurement side, I estimate savings of P20 million. On the overhead, we let go of 40 people. On electricity, we merged offices and cut down on 25 air-conditioning sets. And here’s an interesting item: on newspaper subscriptions, before, they paid P40,000 per month! Everybody had a copy. Now, it’s much less. These savings will go directly — every centavo of it — to the athletes.”

“Another issue that we are fighting is the percentage allocation from the PAGCOR funds. The law states that five percent of PAGCOR’s total revenue should go to the PSC and sports. During Tita Cory’s term, it was this. It was five percent. Then, during President Fidel Ramos’ term, then PSC chairman Philip Juico was asked by Ramos to cut the percentage to 2.5. They had an agreement wherein if the PSC needed additional funding, Ramos would fund it from his discretionary funds as president. And so, this set-up was perfect because Juico requested for plenty of additional funding — which resulted in a total amount much bigger than the original five percent. Philippine sports was well-funded.

“During Erap’s term, this was stopped. Only 2.5 percent of the PAGCOR revenue was allocated — and nothing more. This continued under GMA’s term.

“Now, we are requesting Pres. Noynoy for the full five percent. Right now, our annual budget is around P700 million. Compared to tiny Singapore, with a population of just five million, their budget is (computed in pesos) a big P4.3 billion. That’s six times our figure. And so, if the five percent is granted, at least that will double our budget to P1.4 billion.