13 years of decline: PH sports nose-dives under Peping Cojuangco

MANILA, Philippines – 13 years is adequate time to change the direction of Philippine sports.

Jose Cojuangco Jr, better known as Peping, is 83 years old. 13 is the number of years he has been at the helm of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC).

While Cojuangco started strong with impressive performances for the Philippine team in the 2005 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games and the 2006 Asian Games, medal tallies have nose-dived since then. In the 13 years under Cojuangco, the Philippines has won only one Olympic medal in 3 Olympiads, slumped from 1st place to as low as 7th in the SEA Games, and consistently slipped in Asian Games rankings.

Two Senate hearings have questioned Cojuangco's leadership, blaming him for the dismal performance of Philippine athletes in international competitions. Aside from that, Cojuangco also faces charges of malversation of funds in relation to the country's hosting of the 2005 Manila SEA Games. 

Cojuangco is the longest serving president in the history of the POC, although at least two of his of elections have been riddled with controversy. Before Cojuangco, only one president, former Surigao del Norte Governor Jose Sering, served more than one term (1985-1992).

The POC is a non-governmental body recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as having sole authority to represent the Philippines in international games like the Olympics, the Asian Games, and the SEA Games. While it does not receive any money from the government, it generates funds from an IOC subsidy, sponsorships, licensing fees, special projects, and donations. Critics have said the POC would receive more private funding if it had a new, more capable president.

Cojuangco has consistently predicted huge medal tallies in the SEA Games, vowed gold medals in the Olympics under his watch, and the building of a training center and sports facility for athletes – but has failed to deliver in any of these. 

He recently promised the Philippines would win 5 gold medals in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

On Friday, February 23, Cojuangco could possibly end his 13-year run at the POC. A redo of the 2016 elections has been ordered by the court, after it declared the vote which gave Cojuangco his 4th term to be null and void. But reports say he continues to lobby for a win in hopes of extending his leadership to 16 years.

Here is a look back at Cojuangco's POC presidency since 2005:

January 2005: First term

Cojuangco takes the post of POC president for the first time, replacing incumbent Celso Dayrit. He is the 9th president of the POC since it was formed in 1975. One term is equivalent to 4 years.

August 2005: Chair of Philsoc

Cojuangco is put in charge of SEA Games 2005 preparations held in the Philippines, as chairman of the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (Philsoc). He is given full authority to allocate and disburse funds and enter and sign contracts, among other responsibilities.

November 27 - December 5, 2005: SEA Games in Manila

The 23rd SEA Games are held in the Philippines. It is Cojuangco’s first SEA Games as POC President. The Philippines emerged the overall champion with 291 medals, including 113 gold, 84 silver and 94 bronze. It was the Philippines’ best SEA Games performance in history. 

The Games are not without controversy. Thailand, which finished second overall, claimed that the Philippines cheated during the course of the SEAG. The complaints were made through Jaruk Areerajakaran, the secretary-general of Thailand's Olympic Committee. Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra also considered bringing up the issue at ASEAN Summit in Malaysia that year. The Philippines denied any wrongdoing and the issue was eventually not raised at the Summit.

December 1-15, 2006: Asian Games in Doha

The Philippines takes home 4 gold medals in the Doha Asiad, and ranks 18th overall out of 45 countries, an impressive performance.

December 6-15, 2007: SEA Games in Thailand

From 291 medals in the 2005 Manila SEAG, the Philippines’ haul in Thailand drops to 228, with just 41 gold medals from 113. The Philippines fell from first place in 2005, to a shocking 6th place out of 11 countries.

DECLINING PERFORMANCE. The Philippine team's performance has consistently dipped in the Southeast Asian Games. File Photo from Rappler

DECLINING PERFORMANCE. The Philippine team's performance has consistently dipped in the Southeast Asian Games.

File Photo from Rappler

August 8-24, 2008: Beijing Olympics

The Philippines returns home from the Beijing Olympiad empty-handed under Cojuangco. 

November 28, 2008: Second term

Cojuangco wins a second term, beating in a tight race his challenger, two-time Olympian Arturo Macapagal. He received 21 votes, while Macapagal garnered 19. He gets another 4 years as POC chair.

December 9-18, 2009: SEA Games in Laos

The country’s medal haul dips further. With only 124 medals to show, including 38 gold, the Philippines fell to an embarrassing 5th overall in Laos. 

November 11, 2009: Malversation charges vs Cojuangco

Five years after the Manila SEA Games, the Philippine Sports Commission files a case against Cojuangco for malversation of public funds. He is accused of failing to liquidate P73.24 million of the funds related to the hosting of the 2005 SEAG. The amount was based on the findings of the Commission on Audit. Although COA found out that they liquidated some of the amount, it concluded that the rest were unacceptable based on the government auditor's rules.

Cojuangco argued that the P300 million disbursed by the government for the SEAG was fully accounted for as confirmed by Sycip, Gorres and Velayo, the auditing firm of the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (Philsoc). Two days prior, Cojuangco filed a case vs PSC chair Harry Angping for alleged grave threats and coercion in demanding a refund of the P73.24 million from Cojuangco. 

November 12-27, 2010: Asian Games in Guangzhou

The Philippines takes home 3 gold medals and slips to 19th overall in the Guangzhou Asiad, out of 45 nations.

November 11-22, 2011: SEA Games in Indonesia

The Philippines decline continues, dipping to 6th place after taking home 169 medals, and only 37 gold in Indonesia.

July 27-August 12, 2012: London Olympics 

The Philippines wins no medal under Cojuangco. It is the second Olympics under his watch.

November 20, 2012: Controversial 3rd term win

Cojuangco and every candidate in his ticket won the POC elections, giving the incumbent his 3rd term. He earned 32 out of 43 votes. At 78, he ran unopposed after his challenger Go Teng Kok was disqualified by the POC election committee for being classified as persona non grata, a controversial decision questioned by critics who accused Cojuangco of wanting to stay in power. 

Upon his victory, Cojuangco was quoted as saying he would use his last term to deliver results, aim for an Olympic gold medal, and develop nutrition and strength programs for Filipino athletes. He also said it would be his final term.

December 11-22, 2013: SEA Games in Myanmar

Despite Cojuangco’s promise of better Philippine performances, again, the Philippines drops another rank for the 3rd games in a row. The country finishes 7th overall with 101 medals, just 29 gold in Myanmar.

February 6, 2014: Senate lashes out at POC

During a Senate committee hearing on Games, Amusement and Sports, Senators Sonny Angara and Antonio Trillanes IV blamed the POC for the sad state of the country’s sports program.

The two grilled Cojuangco for failing to address certain issues that several national sports associations (NSA) are facing since he became president of POC, and the Philippines' poor performance in international sports since his leadership.

September 19-October 4, 2014: Asian Games in Incheon

The Philippines takes home only one gold medal and spirals 3 more places down to 22nd overall out of 45 countries.

June 5-16, 2015: SEA Games in Singapore

The Philippines hauls 131 medals, 29 gold in the Singapore games. The country is ranked 6th overall.

August 5-21, 2016: Rio Olympics

The Philippines wins one medal. Hidlyn Diaz wins silver in weightlifting. It is the only Olympic medal for the Philippines under Cojuangco’s leadership of 11 years, since he took the helm at the POC. However, credit was largely given to Diaz and her coach who managed training by using their own resources.

November 25, 2016: Fourth term

Cojuangco, 82, runs unopposed and gets his 4th term as POC president. His opponent, boxing association president Ricky Vargas was similarly disqualified by the POC election committee for being an inactive member. Cojuangco received 26 out of 40 votes.

November 29, 2016: Senators grill Cojuangco again

Two years after the initial Senate hearing questioning Cojuangco, senators again gather to question Cojuangco on the country's dismal international performance under his rule. 

August 17, 2017: PH to host 2019 SEA Games

The Philippines announces it will host the 2019 SEA Games after Brunei begged off due to lack of facilities. The Philippine Sports Commission vowed it will account for every centavo spent on the 2019 Games, unlike the 2005 controversy.

August 20-28, 2017: SEA Games in Malaysia

Though the Philippines maintains its 6th place overall in Malaysia, the 121 medals on a 24-gold haul was the worst performance of the Philippines in the SEA Games in 18 years.

September 21, 2017: Anti-Peping rally

Sports officials, coaches, athletes and sports fans rally in Cebu and Manila asking for Cojuangco to resign.

JUSTICE. Ricky Vargas is now allowed to run for the POC president position in 2018. Photo from SBP Facebook

JUSTICE. Ricky Vargas is now allowed to run for the POC president position in 2018.

Photo from SBP Facebook

December 20, 2017: Elections null and void

The Pasig Regional Trial Court declared the results of the 2016 POC elections that gave Cojuangco his 4th straight term as president to be null and void. The case was filed by Vargas who was disqualified by the POC from running against Cojuangco.

The reelections were set for February 23, 2018.

February 19, 2018: General Assembly

The POC will decide in a general assembly the definition of active membership. Reports say the POC is targeting sports leaders who are supportive of Vargas and gearing to replace them with individuals allied with Cojuangco, to influence the elections set for February 23. – Rappler.com