Malverse raps filed vs Cojuangco
Is Philippine sports suffering from the Napoles syndrome, with public funds being channeled to bogus national sports associations (NSAs)?
At the budget hearing, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV on Wednesday announced that he had filed malversation charges against Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Jose Cojuangco Jr. and Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chair Ricardo Garcia in the Office of the Ombudsman.
“I like to inform the committee that this [Wednesday] morning, I filed a malversation case in the Ombudsman against Ritchie Garcia, Mr. Peping Cojuangco and some other people in relation to the release of PSC funds to bogus NSAs,” Trillanes said.
“So, that is my main issue against the PSC. You have become a rubber stamp of Mr. Peping Cojuangco and we have to put a stop to that,” Trillanes said at the hearing on the P178-million budget of the sports commission.
Cojuangco is an uncle of President Aquino, being the brother of the late democracy icon Corazon Aquino.
The PSC is the sports-funding arm of the government, while the POC is the government body of amateur sports in the country being the local arm of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Trillanes didn’t give any details on the facts of the case he filed against Cojuangco, Garcia and the other respondents. Members of the senator’s staff said the copy of the complaint couldn’t be released yet as doing so could compromise the case.
The exchange between Trillanes and Garcia made it apparent that the senator had a beef with the POC for recognizing a certain NSA to which the PSC had released funds despite what the senator called an unresolved legitimacy issue.
“What is happening right now is, arbitrarily, Peping Cojuangco will recognize bogus NSAs or they will form their own NSAs if he does not agree with the incumbent president of the legitimate NSAs,” Trillanes told Garcia.
The senator said he had told Garcia to withhold funds to a certain NSA since the legitimacy of its leadership had yet to be resolved.
Trillanes didn’t name the particular NSA. The senator claims to be the president of the Table Tennis Association of the Philippines, but another group headed by former national player Ting Ledesma enjoys the recognition of the POC.
“I warned you. Don’t release the funds because the legitimacy issue is yet to be resolved and yet you released the funds. What happened to the funds?” Trillanes told Garcia.
“The funds were pocketed by people whom Peping Cojuangco recognized. They did not conduct tournaments. They overcharged the PSC and you willingly gave them money. So, you will have to answer for that,” Trillanes said.
Garcia said he would answer the charges at the proper forum. The PSC chair, nonetheless, said the commission released funds to NSAs recognized not only by the POC but also by the IOC.
Trillanes countered that the IOC recognized only the NSAs endorsed by the POC.
“I guess … we just have to answer the charges against us in the proper court or the proper forum. I’m just trying to explain that we release funds based on the republic act [Republic Act No. 6847, the PSC charter] and what is stipulated in the mandate of the PSC,” Garcia told Trillanes.
“I guess it stands to be amended and until its amendment, we use (the provisions) as our guidelines,” Garcia added.
Budget cut warning
Trillanes told Garcia that if he continued with this line of defense, he would propose cutting the PSC’s maintenance and other operating expenses budget from P20 million to even lower than P10 million.
“So quit while you’re ahead,” Trillanes added.
It was Cojuangco who endorsed his golf buddy, Garcia, to head the PSC post.
The POC has chosen to remain tight-lipped on the malversation case.
The POC first vice president, Joey Romasanta, said Cojuangco opted not to discuss the issue since the case was already filed on Wednesday in the Office of the Ombudsman.
“We just heard about it, but I guess it has something to do with the table tennis issue,” Romasanta said.
Garcia said there was no basis for filing the case because “the funds released by the PSC were all approved by the board.”
Garcia explained that the PSC was providing funding only to NSAs recognized by the POC, a private organization under the IOC.
52 recognized NSAs
A total of 52 sports activities and their NSAs enjoy recognition from the POC and receive funding from the PSC.
PSC funding comes mostly from state-owned Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor). The agency collects an average share of P600 million a year from Pagcor, which operates and regulates casinos in the country.
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