30 years of the PSC
THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - January 27, 2020 - 12:00am

On Jan. 24, the Philippine Sports Commission celebrated its 30th anniversary. Instead of hosting a grand party, the agency pitched in to help out with relief efforts for Taal Volcano eruption refugees. This is the spirit of this PSC board, sensitivity to the big picture, to where they are in their milieu. They take their responsibilities seriously, but simultaneously realize it is a privilege to be serving the public in this manner.

When it was first created by Republic Act 6847, its mandate was two-pronged: develop grassroots sports and ensure that elite athletes have all they need to perform well. There have been many ups and downs in its history, often influenced by how much the current Chief Executive valued sports. Also, board members are appointed by the sitting President, and are thus co-terminus with the appointing power. The chairman of the commission carries the rank of an undersecretary. Budget is also influenced by Congress, which, in the past, has meant fluctuations in how much the commission received.

During its existence, the country has hosted three Southeast Asian Games, the World Chess Olympiad, and world championship and Olympic qualifiers for various sports. Previous administrations dating back to the early 1990’s have also had their issues with allegations of corruption and missing funds. For much of the last three decades, the agency has also been at loggerheads with the Philippine Olympic Committee. The Philippines has the peculiar situation of having the main disbursing from the government, while the entities running individual sports are privately run. Thus has often resulted with national sports associations complaining of government intervention when they want to have their way.

This particular PSC board, however, has bared its teeth. From clamping down on the funding to obstinate NSAs who don’t liquidate their expenditures, to keeping watch on athletes’s training around the world, this PSC means business. When President Duterte addressed the misinterpretation of the National Sports Development Fund (NSDF) Law, he virtually gave the commission double its budget. Still, the board has been intensely judicious in its use of funds. It has disallowed abuses by NSAs, and rewarded those who run a tight ship and produce winning athletes. The board realized it had supervisory and oversight powers when Duterte came to power, and is finally flexing its muscles.

PSC Chair Butch Ramirez is now the longest-serving and thus far the only board chairman to have returned to the position. The educator, athletic director and sportsman from Davao was first placed at the PSC in 2005 during the Estrada administration, then was retained by Pres. Gloria Arroyo until he was abruptly replaced with Harry Angping in 2009. Ramirez, one of the top campaign officers of Duterte, returned to the post in 2016 with the full confidence of the President. Even more empowered, Ramirez and his board have streamlined and cleaned up the inner clockworks of the agency. He has given his commissioners more autonomy coupled with responsibility, and they have stepped up to the plate. The board has, as always, divided supervision of sports among its members. But this time, they are keeping a close watch on protocols and policies, even flying to athletes’ training sites overseas.

In the case of the last SEA Games, funding needed to go through a government agency. Thus, the PSC did everything to scrutinize the requests for procurement of equipment and services from PHISGOC. After all, they had to ensure that everything was in order. This was not to cause delay, but to follow the law. Still, some questions about Games needs remained unanswered. Now, the Commission on Audit will have to sort through the shrapnel to find the smoking guns.

What many people do not know is that, faced with a potential train wreck in the last Southeast Asian Games, the President did not publicly embarrass those in charge, but warned them of the consequences of their shortcomings. He then turned to Ramirez and told him not to let the Games fail. Knowing all the flaws in the way things were going to go, Ramirez and the PSC released an additional fund of over half a billion pesos. The athletes did everything else. Unknown to the general public, the commission had already spent over P 1.3 billion on training alone, largely in preparation for various world championships and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The domination of the Philippine SEA Games was just a happy by product.

Also, the PSC has upgraded the training and knowledge of national coaches. Many have experienced a rebirth of sorts, now taking pride in their profession as full-time trainors. And athletes who have perforned the best now have entire teams backing them up, particularly the ones with a clear shot at an Olympic medal. This PSC means business, a refreshing development, if there ever was one.

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