Press Release
December 13, 2010

Privilege Speech of Senator Zubiri: The Azkals and the
State of Philippine Sports: Has It Gone to the Dogs?

Mr. President, I rise today to congratulate the Azkals, no Mr. President not your everyday street-dogs of mixed breed, young men who are converting basketball-loving Filipinos over to football. Their team play is winning glory for the country. They are:

Ian Araneta, Jerry Barbaso, Yanti Barsales, David Mark Basa, Joebel Bermejo, Alexander Borromeo, Emelio Caligdong, Christopher Camcam, Jason de Jong, Anton del Rosario, Neil Etheridge, Mark Ferrer, Roel Gener, Robert Gier, Christopher Greatwich, Peter Jaugan, Ray Jonsson, Nestor Margarse, Reymark Palmes, Kristopher Relucio, Eduard Sacapaño, James Younghusband, and Phil Younghusband.

Also, to Simon Alexander McMenemy, Edwin Cabalida, Edzel Bracamonte, Rolando Piñero, Walfred Javier, Josef Malinay, Dan Palami and Rick Olivares who consist the coaching staff, management and media unit.

Mr. President, these men are teaching us three traits: Passion, Skill and Joy. That is the football mantra. Leidenschaft, Geschick, Freude. In the language of the late Paul, the German Octopus.

Our football players display this mantra in and out of the football field. Sadly, Mr. President, some officials and pretenders in the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) do not display, anymore, the football mantra of Passion, Skill and Joy.

Because of the lack of passion and possible corruption in the PFF and other sports agencies, and wrong policies and politics in our sports program, we are not going to be able to host the Philippine leg of the Asian Football Federation Suzuki Cup - - depriving Filipino fans their opportunity to cheer our teams.

It's final. All arrangements regarding the coming Indonesia - Philippines game is directed towards Indonesia - at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium. Once again, we are leaving our Azkals team to fend for themselves, that is the big, big disappointment of our football players and millions of Filipino fans. Most important is that, it has come to represent the lack of foresight of the PSC. I am not blaming the officials of this new PSC administration but the lack of foresight on policies of the past administrations is the problem, which we do not want to be carried over in the present administration. It also tells us that our athletes are often left to fend on their own. And that, combined with the centralized character of sports development, poor to no funding and the lack of a clear policy, spell disaster.

As in many cases, mostly the generosity of benefactors - like Dan Palami and Manny Pangilinan - pushed our teams on and in the process covered up the shortcomings of our government sports program.

Mr. President, this sad state of affairs in no way refers to the Filipino athlete's mettle. Allow me to say a few things about our football players.

The best scoring ability in football history is held by a Filipino: Paulino Alcantara --an Ilonggo who became a doctor. No one has surpassed his scoring habilidad. From 1912 to 1916, he scored 356 goals in 357 game appearances. From 1921 to 1923, he scored 6 goals in 5 appearances. He is the all-time best goal scorer. His goal in April 20, 1922 is also one of the strongest balls. So strong was it, that it punched a hole through the net. Without doubt, football players want to emulate him. Mr. President, he is up there in football history where the likes of Johan Cryuff, the flying Dutchman and the lovable Pele of Brazil belong. Ballack, Beckham and Rooney have yet to kick up goals to achieve the feat of Spanish Ilonggo Paulino Alcantara.

In the present crop of our football players, we already see that glimmer of hope. Hope that Filipinos will once more gain glory for the country through football - - the only sports called The beautiful game.

Our team has improved the country's standing. We occupy rank 175, on the average, but these young men have improved our ranking by leaps and goals. Mr. President, in the FIFA's own words after 3 successive Filipino wins:

"Every cloud has a silver lining. Even the Philippines, long considered to be one of Asia's abject underdogs, had their day as the island nation shot up 13 places in December's FIFA/Coca-Cola world ranking following a second-place finish in qualifying for the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Championship in November."

And then: "The Philippines pulled off one of the biggest shocks in the history of the AFF Suzuki Cup with a 2-0 win over defending champion Vietnam."

Our team is on a winning run.

Meanwhile, deep in our hearts, we know we have failed, fair and square, to bring our team to play in their home court. After studying the book FIFA Football Stadiums Technical Recommendations and Requirements:

FIFA has 10 prerequisites to be considered for international matches. Briefly, they are :

1. Pre-construction decisions such as stadium location, field orientation, multi-purpose facilities

2. Safety

3. Parking

4. Playing area

5. Players and match officials -- dressing rooms, media rooms, showers

6. Spectators

7. Hospitality

8. Media

9. Lighting and power supply

10. Communication and additional areas

After reading these lines from the FIFA guidebook, the first thing that came to my mind was our Panaad Stadium from my father's home-province of Negros Occidental since it has already hosted past international games. With rumors being passed around in the internet that we do not have a venue to host our home and away game, friends and football fans asked for help, I frantically called PSC Chair Richie Garcia last Thursday night. And had asked him for his assessment on the use of the stadium. According to the PSC Chair, being a fellow Negrense and a football fan himself, he was as excited with the prospect of hosting it there but after a check with the custodians of the stadium he had found out that we could not get accreditation because the lighting was inadequate and had to be doubled and that the field was not properly maintained. I was immediately frustrated with this reply, I even offered my PDAF as a source of funds to fix the lights, however, he answered that it would still be physically impossible to do that all in a week's time especially on the preparations of the football field which could take weeks. Unbelievable Mr. President, I just could not believe, a country like ours had no accredited facility to host an international football game. Ironically, with no offensement to basketball and its fans, we have PBA and NBA certified courts in most of our provinces, all across the country, from the north to the south.

Unbelievable Mr. President, but unfortunately true. It seems that we are so predisposed to the fact that our football teams cannot win and therefore we need not prepare our stadiums for championships. That's a shame, as our smaller neighbors like Cambodia and Laos have accredited facilities and we do not have any.

On top of the physical inadequacies of our stadium, there is disunity in the ranks of sports officials in charge of football. They have to get their acts together. Clean house, as the Federacion Internationale de Football Association, or FIFA, said. Pay your coaches in time and pay them well, the athletes say this too.

An international sports federation calls for transparency and accountability. So we should, not just to respond to their call but to generate optimism in football and consequently in other sports.

The Philippine Football Federation is the recognized National Sports Association -- or NSA - - of football in the Philippines. The NSA is "organized for their respective sports in the Philippines and affiliated with their respective international federations and with the Philippine Olympic Committee which have exclusive technical control over the promotion and development of the particular sports for which they are organized."

As the football NSA, the PFF is authorized to receive assistance from the Philippine Sports Commission. It is also the FIFA-accredited NSA. And, has also received financial support from FIFA.

It is dawning on us, that money will solve a lot of our problems, but it is not the only ingredient to the solution. There is a brewing word war among the directors and officers of the PFF - - where the extreme position calls for the replacement of its head.

There are so many questions in my mind Mr. president:

1. What happened to the funds support given to the PFF all these years?

2. How much was given? And was it enough to maintain an honest to goodness sports program or at the very least a well maintained stadium from our existing stadiums?

3. What's with all the politics in the NSA? Should we review the system we have in order to create a super sports program similar to our nation's basketball team - Smart Gilas, who as a team, has been training together the past two years to try to achieve basketball greatness in the international arena.

4. Did this type of politics call for the ouster of the PFF head, Jose Mari Martinez, during the duration of Suzuki Cup tournament creating a stir with the ASEAN Football Federation? Was the timing off? What were the reasons of these changes? And can the new leadership that assured as that this was for the good of the sport.

5. And most importantly, for the PFF and the PSC, why do we not have an accredited venue to allow us footbal fans a chance to cheer for our team, for our country and for our glory?

So many more questions Mr. President, come to my mind but I will save them for a Congressional hearing in the near future to find out how we can help our country's sports program.

For a moment, we may leave that issue of the missed football match in the home court. However, it is inevitable that the football story will force us to look into what is ailing our sports programs nationwide.

Today, Mr. President, we must look at the big picture of how often we just pay lip service to sports and athletics development. Slim medal harvest and low ranking generally describe the Philippines despite laws creating the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and the constitution of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC).

For example, there was a 188-member national delegation to the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou, China. Our athletes brought home three gold, four silver and nine bronze medals. I wonder. How many of them were athletes, coaches, trainers, doctors and others directly inputting into the performances? And, how many were on junkets paid for by public money?

It has been announced by the PSC that P400 Million will be used "to fund the country's various athletic and grassroots programs next year."

The PSC will get P168 Million for operating expenses from the GAA and the rest to be divided among NSAs. In addition, the DBM has approved P30 Million for the 2011 Southeast Asian Games in Indonesia, Philippine National Games and the Batang Pinoy.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Amusements and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) will provide the balance of P202 Million via their monthly remittances to the National Sports Development Fund (NSDF). Likewise, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) will contribute from revenues generated from lottery draws.

Although they are mandated to do so in their charters, the PCSO and PAGCOR are also part of ther problem as they do not accurately remit the amounts due to the PSC for their sports programs.

In addition to all these travails in the sports sector, the PSC, PAGCOR and the PCSO are also embroiled in a conflict regarding the interpretation of the NSDF and the shares that should be remitted by the two revenue-earning government bodies. Which I believe should also be part of the inquiry.

Accordingly, the NSAs have to submit their plans and programs, or requests, to the PSC. Attached to it should be an endorsement from the POC. Either the NSAs are inefficient or the PSC and POC are negligent, or, both, that our sports programs are inadequate to fulfill not only our international commitments but our Constitutional mandate to fulfill the needs of our youth.

And finally Mr. President, I am appealing to the current government, particularly, to our President, President Aquino, to stand up for Philippine sports. Just on the issue of the stadium alone Mr. President, if P-Noy wants it to happen, he can make it happen. All he has to do is just get involved.

Why you may ask shall a President have to get involved, well it is because of our nation's glory and the unity of our people. Heck, look what Rep. Manny Pacquiao has done to our country in terms of national pride, unity and even tourism. But he can't fight for us forever and there can only be one Manny Pacquiao. Let us learn from the superpowers such as China, the US, France, Germany, England and even our neighbors Japan and Korea that used sports to rally their people to unite behind their nation and behind their flag.

Some unsolicited advice for the President, and I know that President Noy does not like to be given unsolicited advice but here it comes anyways.

Mr. President, please watch the movie Invictus, it's the story of the great Nelson Mandela, elected as the first black President of South Africa. He was facing threats and disunity by the minority white South African population that controlled the business and economy of the nation. In order to unite his people he turned to sports and supported the South African rugby team which was considered by his black countrymen as a white man's sport. In the end, he earned the respect of thr white and united the country behind their team and their flag, rallying its outclassed rugby players to a world championship. It is a lesson we should all learn and if I may, this movie should be made required viewing for all our Presidents to infuse energy to our low-batt sports programs. And to quote English poet William Ernest Henly:

"Out of the night that covers me, black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank wahatever God's may be for unconquearable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not whinst nor cried aloud under the bludgeoning of chance My head is bloody but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears, looms but the horror of the shade, and yet the menace of the years finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how straight the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my faith, I am the captain of my soul."

Let this be an inspiration to all of us that have to go through the darkness that we should not leave them alone. Mabuhay and team Azkal, mabuhay ang Pilipinas.

Thank you.

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