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

Published November 8, 2019, 2:55 PM

by Gabriela Baron & Minka Klaudia Tiangco

By Ben 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.

NUP President Elpidio Barzaga Jr. (Twitter)
Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. (Twitter)

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 been apparently been deprived of significant government support.

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

He lamented: “Despite the apparent financial support, our national athletes still plea that it is not enough or sadly, becomes lost in the midst of powerplay.”

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

Despite being 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 Dasmarinas City.

So, in an email interview with 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 among the top Filipino chess strategists in the country.

He disclosed that the grandmaster received backing from the Philippine Sports Commision (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 back in 2013 after So’s gold medal win in the World Universiade Games in Kazan, Russian. That triumph had some quarters raising the possibility of a rewarding him with seven-figure incentive from the government.

So was denied the minimum P1 million 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 long-drawn 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.”