FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno (The Philippine Star) - December 1, 2020 - 12:00am

President-elect Joe Biden is impressively building his Cabinet. Like the new president, his team appears to be competent, mature and sophisticated. But this does not make the transition from one presidency to the next any less perilous.

Trump, swimming in his own delusions, continues to rant about the election being stolen from him. Last heard, he was implicating both the CIA and the FBI in some imagined conspiracy to ease him from power. This man has fallen into an alternative universe from where he could no longer be rescued.

Should he continue with his refusal to recognize the clear results of the last elections, he might have to be carried out bodily from the official residence by US marshals on Jan. 20.

But the turbulent transition Trump is trying to stoke raises risks. For weeks, he prevented the president-elect from receiving the presidential intelligence briefing he is entitled to. The commission formed to study the 9-11 attacks saw the abbreviated transition to the presidency of George W. Bush as a factor that enabled the terrorists to blindside the American security establishment.

Instead of assisting his successor in the midst of a pandemic and volatility around the world, Trump has been planting booby traps for Joe Biden to run into. The sitting president seems bent on invalidating his successor and making it difficult for him to govern.

While Trump maintained a maniacal focus on unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud, even the neglect of the deadly autumn surge in coronavirus infection in his country, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was assassinated on the outskirts of Tehran. The victim is Iran’s top nuclear scientist and allegedly heads the country’s effort to build nuclear weapons.

Last year, it will be recalled, US Special Forces undertook the assassination of the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Baghdad. This time, Tehran is tagging Israel’s Mossad for the assassination – although maintaining that the provocative action could have been undertaken at the behest of Washington. A few weeks ago, it was reported that Trump shocked his security advisers by considering a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.

Israel, of course, sees the development of Iranian nuclear weapons as an existential threat. They will do anything, from assassinations to aerial strikes, to prevent such development. They have done so in Syria.

Now the world waits anxiously for Iran’s reaction to the embarrassment of having another of its valuable officials killed by foreign forces. A full-scale conflagration could break out in the world’s most volatile region. This could be, in Trump’s perverse mind, the best gift he could leave to his successor as he grudgingly leaves office after a chaotic single term.



Exactly a year ago, the country was busy hosting the 30th Southeast Asian Games – and harvesting an unprecedented number of medals to underscore our dominant role in regional sports. This was a moment of pride for the country and leaves a long afterglow in its wake.

Since then, and through this dark episode of community quarantines, the irredeemable factional politicking plaguing Filipino sports undermined that proud moment. Contenders to the highest posts in Filipino sports took to flinging wild charges against the organizing committee for the Games as well the construction of the sports facilities at the New Clark City.

The controversy-mongers were not flailing wildly. Their objective was obviously to discredit the group of sports leaders associated with the staging of the 30th Southeast Asian Games and grab control of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC). Recall that when the POC held special elections in July 2019, Cavite congressman Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino was met with a slew of extraneous allegations intended to disqualify him from seeking the top sports post. The allegations came from the rival camp led by Clint Aranas.

Last Friday, regular elections for the POC were held. The mudslinging notwithstanding, Tolentino decisively won a fresh mandate to lead the national sports associations to more glory in the coming years. The reelected president of the POC is seen as a close ally of former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, who chaired the SEA Games Organizing Committee that successfully staged last year’s event.

There were some late maneuvers ahead of last Friday’s decisive elections. The camp of Aranas was demanding the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) submit its audited financial statements immediately despite full knowledge the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) had completed remitting its financial assistance for hosting the event only on Sept. 4, 2020 – or 10 months after the event concluded.

Those late maneuvers accomplished nothing. The various sports associations decided Tolentino was the man to lead our revival as an international sporting power. Tolentino now has the opportunity to advance the sports development programs he advocated for.

Cayetano praised the outcome of last Friday’s vote. He said Tolentino’s reelection as president of the POC “signifies the vote of confidence of the leaders of national sports associations (in) a more progressive and responsive leader.” He expressed hope that the POC “will continue to inspire and provide our athletes with the support they need during competitions.”

Our national sports program never had, and probably never will have, sufficient resources to fully compete globally. We have often relied on natural talent or pure grit to win in international competitions.

Now we have a reputation to maintain. The 30th Southeast Asian Games that our athletes dominated was the biggest staging of this event.

Tolentino’s biggest challenge is to find enough resources to sustain our rediscovered stature as a regional sporting power.

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