THE Philippines hosts the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games from Nov. 30 until Dec. 11 in the Philippine Arena, New Clark City Athletics Stadium. With the motto, “We Win as One,” the event has a budget of P6 billion. Before the games could begin, we see the ugly heads of corruption and politicking among those given the responsibility and trust to make a successful staging and to attain a decent finish in the competition.
One of the highlights in the opening ceremonies is the torch lighting. This will definitely be a “must-see” moment, since Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon has exposed the exorbitant cost of the cauldron–more than P50 million consisting of design, P4,400,000; foundation site construction, P13,440,000; physical construction and installation of the cauldron, P32 million; and wrist tags, P6 million. One commentator described it as “the most expensive campfire in the country’s history.” Not to be outdone, the cost for the performances in the opening and closing ceremonies is a mind-boggling P73,251,550.00 with neither Bruno Mars or Black-Eyed Peas in the program. This exposé is shocking, but we may find out that this revelation is just the tip of the iceberg.
We already know about the Wesley So saga that saw the Philippines’ most important chess player today transfer his affiliation to the United States Chess Federation. He did so out of frustration. He said, “To be poor and unconnected in the Philippines is to be trash for rich people to step on... Because of a quarrel between the kings of the sports bodies, not only did the country refuse to acknowledge my efforts, they refused to give me the P1 million promised to athletes who bring home a gold medal.”
How many other Wesleys have been denied their right to represent the Philippines because of being poor, if not unconnected? Take for instance Orencio James “OJ” de los Santos, one of the country’s top-ranked karate (kata) practitioners and 2017 SEA Games bronze medalist, who has been excluded from the Philippine team competing in the SEA Games.
OJ’s father, David de los Santos, has challenged Karate Pilipinas president Richard Lim to answer his allegations of selecting junior players instead of senior-level and experienced practitioners (like OJ) and of favoring those belonging to the latter’s club. OJ, who is the number one senior individual kata player in the country as ranked during the 2018 Philippine National Games, lost his position in the national team to the son of the vice president of the National Sports Association. We are looking forward to the response of Mr Lim.
David is fighting for his son who feels cheated by sports officials entrusted in bringing only the best and the brightest players in the international stage. OJ may not be the only victim of politicking and the padrino system that infest Philippine sports bodies and that is why we have fared poorly in the medal standings.