Solon wants con­gres­sional probe on pol­i­tics, power play in PH sports

Manila Bulletin - - Front Page - By BEN R. ROSARIO

Pol­i­tics and power play af­fect­ing the coun­try’s sports de­vel­op­ment pro­gram will con­tinue to de­prive the Philip­pines of in­ter­na­tional honors, a se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion law­maker warned as he sought a con­gres­sional in­quiry into the is­sue.

Cit­ing the plight of chess Grand­mas­ter Wes­ley So who re­cently beat World No. 1 Mag­nus Carlsen, Cavite Rep. El­pidio Barzaga Jr. asked the House Com­mit­tee on Youth and Sports De­vel­op­ment to in­ves­ti­gate the “sorry state” of

na­tional ath­letes, say­ing that like So, many have ap­par­ently been de­prived of sig­nif­i­cant govern­ment sup­port.

“The sorry plight of our na­tional ath­letes still per­sists,” said Barzaga in the res­o­lu­tion.

He lamented: “De­spite the ap­par­ent fi­nan­cial sup­port, our na­tional ath­letes still plead that it is not enough, or sadly, they be­come lost in the midst of power play.”

So’s case was cited by Barzaga as an ex­am­ple of how na­tional ath­letes are mis­man­aged.

Born in Ba­coor, Cavite, So rep­re­sented the United States in win­ning the in­au­gu­ral World Fis­cher Chess Cham­pi­onship.

Barzaga noted that So’s mother is a Filipino who works as an ac­coun­tant at the De la Salle Uni­ver­sity Hospi­tal in Das­mar­iñas City.

So, in an email in­ter­view with SPIN.ph through Lo­tis Key, a for­mer ac­tress who now stands as So’s adop­tive mother in the US, said he de­cided to switch al­le­giance to the US chess fed­er­a­tion be­cause “it was al­most im­pos­si­ble to get ahead in the Philip­pines.”

None­the­less, Barzaga pointed out that So did re­ceive sup­port dur­ing his years as one of the top Filipino chess strategist­s in the coun­try.

He dis­closed that the grand­mas­ter re­ceived back­ing from the Philip­pine Sports Com­mis­sion (PSC), the Na­tional Chess Fed­er­a­tion of the Philip­pines (NCFP) headed by Suri­gao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay, and chess pa­trons like Regi­nald Tee, who took So un­der his wings.

Pichay’s group in­sisted that So still re­ceives a monthly al­lowance re­served for elite na­tional ath­letes from the

PSC even af­ter mov­ing to the US on the in­vi­ta­tion of for­mer women’s world cham­pion Su­san Pol­gar to play for Web­ster Uni­ver­sity in Missouri.

“Yet, there was no ques­tion about the dis­en­chant­ment over the sys­tem that So bot­tled up in­side for so long un­til it reached break­ing point af­ter one in­ci­dent where, in his own words, he got caught in the mid­dle of a feud among the kings of the sports bod­ies,” the res­o­lu­tion said.

This hap­pened in 2013 af­ter So’s gold medal win in the World Univer­si­ade Games in Kazan, Rus­sia. That tri­umph had some quar­ters rais­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of re­ward­ing him with seven-fig­ure in­cen­tive from the govern­ment.

So was de­nied the min­i­mum 11mil­lion bonus for his feat. Re­act­ing to the protests against the de­nial of in­cen­tive, the PSC pointed out that Univer­si­ade was not in­cluded in the list of in­ter­na­tional events where Filipino win­ners could be en­ti­tled to mon­e­tary in­cen­tives un­der Repub­lic Act No. 9644, oth­er­wise known as the Ath­letes’ In­cen­tives Act.

The res­o­lu­tion said it also didn’t help that So’s cause never re­ceived back­ing from the Philip­pine Olympic Com­mit­tee which, in the first place, re­fused to sanc­tion the Univer­si­ade trip since the del­e­ga­tion was sent by a group whose mem­bers had pre­vi­ously clashed with the POC over the long­drawn bas­ket­ball lead­er­ship row.

“Amid the power play, So was left hold­ing an empty bag,” the res­o­lu­tion said, quot­ing So as say­ing that, “To be poor and un­con­nected in the Philip­pines is to be trash for rich peo­ple to step on.”

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