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Cebu News

Fernandez sues Cojuangco for libel

John M. Destacamento, Emmanuel B. Villaruel - The Freeman
Fernandez sues Cojuangco for libel
Philippine Sports Commissioner Ramon Fernandez, in his complaint-affidavit, said Cojuangco also accused him of “throwing away games” and that Cojuangco had papers, documents, and even “a guy who can provide information” about his claims.
Philstar.com/File

CEBU, Philippines - Philippine Sports Commissioner Ramon Fernandez yesterday filed a libel and/or grave oral defamation complaint against Philippine Olympic Committee Chairman Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr. before the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office after the latter allegedly branded him as a “game fixer.”

Fernandez, in his complaint-affidavit, said Cojuangco also accused him of “throwing away games” and that Cojuangco had papers, documents, and even “a guy who can provide information” about his claims.

"There had been such kind of accusations against me in the past but it was never substantiated. I was never charged. Ngayon ginawa niya yun, I have to do something," Fernandez told reporters in a press conference after filing the complaint.

"I wouldn't have minded if he made the allegations when I was still playing. I would have let my game do the talking. But it's a different story now. He should have given respect to the position I'm in right now, being an assistant secretary to the President at that," he said.

He is seeking a P10 million compensation for moral damages; P50,000 for exemplary damages; and P200,000 for attorney’s fees.

Fernandez filed the complaint at 1:30 p.m. yesterday together with his wife Karla and assisted by his legal counsels Ramsey Quijano, Jeremy Christian Marquez, and Baldomero “Merong” Estenzo.

Cebu City Sports Commission Chairman Edward Hayco also showed up to give his moral support to Fernandez.

Reached for comment, Cojuangco’s camp opted to remain mum on the matter yesterday.

“Ayaw na niyang mag-comment. He will answer the charges in the proper forum,” Cojuangco’s spokesman told The FREEMAN.

Cojuangco, in a newspaper report published on March 7, was quoted as saying, “How can we entrust the national athletes to somebody who threw away games?... He’s been saying that they’ll take over Philippine sports but he is a game fixer.”

Fernandez has been vocal about Cojuangco's clinging on to power, as well as the abuse and misuse of PSC funds by the POC under the leadership of Cojuangco.

From 2010 to 2016, the PSC has given a total of P129 million in financial assistance to the POC over and above what the PSC gave to the athletes, but Fernandez said he found out that some of it was spent by the POC for questionable purposes. 

He pointed out that in 2013, the PSC, then under chairman Ritchie Garcia, shelled out a total P38 million to the POC for one event alone, the Asian Games Centennial Celebration, which was scrapped due to super typhoon Yolanda.

"You spent P38 million for a single event na alam natin hindi natuloy dahil binagyo. Is that a sporting program for the athletes? Is it the mandate of the PSC to fund such event? The POC has to liquidate because that's people's money," Fernandez said.

Fernandez also blamed Cojuangco's poor leadership at the POC as the chief reason of the Philippines' declining performance in major international competitions even at the Southeast Asian level that used to be dominated by the country.

"The real issue here is the abuse of power. Ang pera ng PSC ay para sa mga atleta but ang nangyari ay parang naging milking cow ng POC ang PSC kaya kawawa ang mga atleta. I am doing this as a former national player," he said.

Now 63, Fernandez is widely regarded as the greatest PBA player of all time with four MVP awards and winning six All-Star and 19 PBA championships.

He was also part of the Philippine men's basketball team that won silver medal at the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing, China.

Settlement?

"Like a true sportsman, we can always talk about it if they want to settle out of court," Fernandez replied when asked on the possibility of settling the rift.

"I am putting up a sports program targeting to win a medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Maybe he can fund that," he said. (FREEMAN)

JOSE “PEPING” COJUANGCO JR.

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