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Sports

Stop bickerings, focus on SEAG, rallyists told

- Abac Cordero -
Disgruntled national athletes pushed through with their protest rally in Malacañang yesterday but went home empty-handed as they failed to get an audience with President Arroyo with whom they had hoped to air their grievances against the country’s top sports officials.

It was the second protest rally staged by the athletes in the last four months and it was also the second time that they failed to get just even a glimpse of the President. During their first rally last March, then Executive Secretary Renato de Villa welcomed them and gave them the assurance that their demands would reach the President.

In yesterday’s rally, the number of the participating athletes seemed to have dwindled to maybe a hundred. Also this time, it was just Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Waldo Flores who met with them as the President was busy attending to more important matters.

Jaime Sebastian, the president of the Athletes and Coaches Alliance of the Philippines and leader of the rally, had claimed days before the action that they were given the assurance that the President would personally listen to their grievances against sports officials led by PSC chairman Carlos Tuason and POC president Celso Dayrit.

"I’m quite frustrated because we came to see the President," said Sebastian, further explaining that most of the athletes who were supposed to join the rally failed to do so since they are busy training for the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games this September.

Instead, the rally turned out to be a gathering of former sports officials led by ex-POC presidents Julian Malonso and Cristy Ramos, former PSC chairman Aparicio Mequi and ex-PSC commissioner Tisha Abundo. Joining them in their cause was Fr. Robert Reyes, more popularly known as the "running priest."

In their meeting with Flores inside the Palace, the former sports officials issued different demands with Ramos calling for a total revamp of the PSC leadership, Abundo for an investigation of corrupt practices within the government sports agency, and Malonso for an abolition of the 11-year-old PSC.

"I urge you to stop all these bickerings and attacks on certain personalities since we have the SEA Games to focus on. Tigilan muna natin ang personalan. But I promise you that after the SEA Games, we will review the performance of these sports officials before we can make a move," Flores was quoted as telling the leaders of the rally.

From Malacañang, the rally participants staged a protest run at the POC office at the PICC grounds before proceeding to the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex where the PSC is based.

The "running priest" took a dig at the President, saying: "She is not even lifting a finger. She is more concerned with the military, the Abu Sayyaf and the 2004 elections. I am not here campaigning for any personality but for the integrity of this institution."

Dayrit was not at the POC office at the time of the rally. Tuason, for his part, said "the PSC is addressing the athletes’ needs as early as March. We have also established mechanisms to do this and hold monthly consultations with the athletes."

ABU SAYYAF

APARICIO MEQUI

ATHLETES

ATHLETES AND COACHES ALLIANCE OF THE PHILIPPINES

BUT I

CARLOS TUASON

CELSO DAYRIT

EXECUTIVE SECRETARY RENATO

PRESIDENT

RALLY

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