PHILIPPINE SPORTS YEARENDER
Manila, Dec. 29, 2000 - What happened to coach Eric Altamirano on the very first day of April might have felt like an April Fool's Day prank - only it was no joke. Mobiline management, seeing its skidding fortunes in the All-Filipino Cup, decided to terminate the services of Altamirano and tap Louie Alas, who was coaching the Manila Metrostars in the MBA, as his replacement.
The Phone Pals were 3-8 in the elimination round at that point and had suffered a stinging a 71-96 loss to Alaska just three days before Altamirano was sacked.
Altamirano had signed a five-year P18-million in mid-1998 with the Phone Pals, which management said it would honor. Alas, who steered the RP squad to the gold medal in the 1999 Brunei Southeast Asian Games, still had to secure his release from the Metrostars to coach Mobiline.
Efren "Bata" Reyes reasserted his mastery over friend and arch rival Francisco "Django" Bustamante in the finals of the Motolite 9-ball Battle of Champions.
The "Magician" pulled a rabbit out of his hat, conjuring a come-from-behind 13-7 triumph after battling from a 2-6 deficit to pocket the top prize of P500,000. Bata earned a total of P640,000 including wins in the earlier rounds.
On April 2, newly-hired Mobiline coach Louie Alas said one of his priorities would be to maximize the team's height by making it into a strong rebounding squad. "This team is tall and has a lot of rebounding talent but they were not exploiting it," he said.
The next day, Mobiline offered Alas a three-year contract reportedly worth between P9-10-million. Alas, however, still had to secure his release from the Manila Metrostars in the MBA.
ll recovering from a wrist surgery, announced at the PSA forum on April 3 that he was not interested in becoming the president of the Philippine Bowling Congress.
"I'm an athlete and I still want to play," said the 42-year-old southpaw, who was with his father-coach Angel, after being offered to head the troubled sports association by some bowling quarters.
Nepomuceno, who had surgery to correct the tendinitis in his left hand, also thanked Reps. Gilbert Duavit, Ranjit Shahani, Miguel Zubiri and Ace Barbers for authoring House Bill 5144 awarding cash incentives for athletes who win honors in local and international competitions.
Problematic Mobiline center Asi Taulava was given a lifeline when Bureau of Immigration Commissioner Rufus Rodriguez announced on April 5 that they would schedule a re-hearing of the player on April 18 to prove that he was part-Filipino.
But Taulava faced a new threat when Emil Ong, Presidential Adviser for the Visayas, wrote Rodriguez a letter accusing Paul Daza, son of former Deputy House Speaker Raul Daza, of conspiring with the player in securing fraudulent documents attesting to his Filipino roots. Ong said that there was no proof that Taulava's mother, Pauline Hernandez Mateaki, had been born in San Jose, Northern Samar.
The Philippines had another boxer bound to the Olympics after Danilo Lerio earned his ticket to the Sydney Games on April 6 by soundly beating North Korean Kim Un Chol 11-4 in the lightflyweight semi-finals of the Third Asian Pre-Olympic slugfest in Bangkok, Thailand.
The 19-year-old pride of Antipas, North Cotabato joined elder brother Arlan, Larry Semillano and Romeo Brin as the country's Olympic hopeful. Lerio would be gunning for the gold against Indonesian La Paene Masara in the finals.
The veteran Indonesian beat the youthful Filipino 8-3 in the championship match of the 24th King's Cup on April 8. The unstable peace in order in Tubud, Lanao del Norte prompted PSC chairman Carlos Tuason to announce on April 7 that the Palarong Pambansa had been shifted to Bacolod and was to be held May 21-28.
Tuason said Lanao del Norte Gov. Imelda Dimaporo had recommended Bacolod as the alternative site and that President Estrada had already been informed of the shift.
He added that Manila and Cebu were also considered as options but Bacolod, which staged the 1998 Centennial Palaro and the First Batang Pinoy nationals in 1999, finally won the nod because no added expense would be incurred in staging the sportsfest.
After much anticipation, the PBA finally revealed its 25 All-Time Greatest Players on April 9 dominated by players from Crispa and Toyota in glittering ceremonies at the Araneta Coliseum.
The fabled Crispa Redmanizers, two-time grand slam champions, had six players in the honor roll: Bernard Fabiosa, Atoy Co, Philip Cezar, Freddie Hubalde, Alberto Guidaben and William "Bogs" Adornado, who had transferred to U-tex late in his career.
The troika of Robert Jaworski, Ramon Fernandez and Francis Arnaiz, who led the Toyota Tamaraws in their storied rivalry against the Redmanizers, were also named to the elite list.
San Miguel Beer, the lone remaining original ballclub when the league opened in 1975, had Ato Agustin, Hector Calma, Samboy Lim and Manny Paner (when the team was still known as Royal Tru-Orange) earning the prestigious honor).
Alaska was represented by Jojo Lastimosa (now with Pop Cola), Johnny Abarrientos and Kenneth Duremdes while Purefoods had skipper Alvin Patrimonio, a four-time PBA MVP like Fernandez, and Jerry Codiñera (now with Mobiline) in the ranks of the all-time best.
Great Taste standouts Ricardo Brown and Allan Caidic, Shell stalwarts Benjie Paras and Ronnie Magsanoc (now with Sta. Lucia Realty), U-Tex stars Danny Florencio and Lim Eng Beng and Pop Cola's Vergel Meneses (now with Ginebra) rounded out the list.
Also honored were grand slam coaches Virgilio "Baby" Dalupan and Tommy Manotoc of Crispa, Norman Black (now with Sta. Lucia) of San Miguel and Tim Cone of Alaska and the PBA commissioners through the years - Leo Prieto, Mariano Yenko (deceased), Rudy Salud, Rey Marquez and Jun Bernardino.
Over in the rival MBA, Ramon Tuason, representing the interest of the Manila Metrostars, said the team was contemplating on suing coach Louie Alas, who wanted out so he could coach Mobiline in the PBA, for breach of contract.
National Master Enrique Paciencia upset the formchart by beating International Master Bong Villamayor on April 12 to advance to the finals of the First Millennium Chess Grand Prix.
Paciencia drew his playoff match with Villamayor, earning a 2.5-1.5 victory and set up a title showdown for the P1 million grand prize with early finalist Grandmaster Rogelio Antonio Jr.
PSC chairman Tuason fielded questions at the PSA forum, including the individual allotments in the year 2000 for national sports association, the government sports agency's programs and his appointments to sensitive PSC posts.
Tuason explained that the P130 million meant for NSAs, which they claimed was "too little," excluded other items such as allowances for foreign coaches and expenses for the billeting of coaches and athletes in the national pool.
Tuason added that the PSC had earmarked another P10 million for the buildup of athletes who qualified for Olympics.
Except for the Batang Pinoy program, Tuason said, the PSC does not spend for any other major sports competition since the funds from the Palarong Pambansa has already been budgeted and the Palaro ng Bayan is an initiative of local government units.
Antonio beat Paciencia in 62 moves of a Benoni Game on April 13 in the first match of the best-of-4 title series of the First Pambansa Millennium Chess Grand Prix. He made it 2-0 the next day, toying with Paciencia in 26 moves of a Petroff Defense.
Antonio completed a three-game sweep of the title playoffs by subduing Paciencia, a 32-year-old computer technician, on April 15 by winning in 42 moves of a Reti Opening.
With the victory, Antonio pocketed P1 million, the richest cash prize in local chess, while Paciencia settled for the runner-up purse of P144,000.
In faraway Merida Mexico, Luisito Espinosa failed in his bid to regain the World Boxing Council featherweight tile, losing by technical decision to defending champion and hometown bet Gustavo "Guty" Espadas.
Espinosa suffered a first-round knockdown then banged heads with Espadas in the 11th round, resulting in a deep gash on the left eyebrow of the reigning champ that prompted referee Richard Steele to stop the fight.
Under WBC rules, whoever led on the scorecards would be the winner. Espadas was comfortably ahead in the scorecards of all three judges - Chuck Hassett (108-99), Marty Denkin (110-98), John Keane (108-99) - to keep his title.
PSC officials said on April 17 that Executive Secretary Ronaldo Zamora's request that they submit their courtesy resignations was "making a mountain out of a molehill."
Chairman Tuason said that Zamora's April 10 directive was a follow up to an earlier pronouncement by President Estrada last November asking all government officials to submit courtesy resignation so he could effect revamp.
Tuason said that their courtesy resignations had apparently been misplaced hence the request.
Paul Daza denied allegations by President Adviser Emil Ong that he connived with Taulava in securing spurious papers to prove the player's Filipino roots. He accused Ong of having a "political agenda to influence the BI against Taulava."
Grandmaster Joey Antonio denounced the Philippine Chess Federation's decision to deduct P100,000 from the P1 million cash prize he won in the Millennium Chess Grand Prix.
The fatal crash of Davao-bound Air Philippines Flight 541 claimed among its victims 28-year-old Gerald Anthony Pinggoy, who just two weeks before had competed in the world championship in Lyon, France.
The Philippines, bannered by the Manila Metrostars, beat Singapore 69-64 in overtime on April 24 to sweep the 3rd SEABA men's basketball championship in Indonesia. The victory earned the right for the country to represent the region in the ABC Champions Cup in Lebanon the succeeding month.
The Philippine Sports Commission unveiled its Athletes Assistance (Atleta) program, a project meant to tap private sponsorship to fund the long-term and sustained training of selected athletes in the national pool. An initial 61 athletes in 16 sports were eyed as initial beneficiaries of the project.
PSC Commissioner Richie Garcia, who oversees elite sports, allayed fears at the PSA forum on April 25 that other athletes would be shortchanged once the Atleta project is implemented.
"The more the PSC can save through Atleta, the more money will be available to other athletes," Garcia said.
As part of its silver anniversary celebrations, the PBA announced on April 26 that the ABC All-Stars would be visiting the country for a one-game exhibition series in August against a PBA Selection. PBA Commissioner Jun Bernardino said the PBA selection would be coached by the mentor of the All-Filipino Cup champion. Malaysian Yeoh Choo Hook, ABC secretary general, was present when the announcement was made.
Declaring "enough is enough," PSC chairman Tuason filed libel charges against former employe Agnes Cruz, who had accused him of sexual harassment. Tuason filed the case with Manila City fiscal Eufrosino Sulla.
Cruz had claimed in news reports that Tuason had made sexual advances against her in February, but the latter vehemently denied her accusations. Tuason showed Cruz's resignation letter dated Dec. 1, 1998 to belie her allegations.
On April 28, the Bureau of Immigration, ruling "with finality," upheld the Feb. 3 deportation order of Taulava after the player failed to present proof that he is part-Filipino.
In the four-page decision, the BI said: "Citizenship cannot be presumed. Neither can it be a matter of stipulation of facts... We found no competent evidence to prove that respondent has Filipino lineage." In response, PBA Commissioner Bernardino said the league would abide by the decision and that Taulava would be barred from further playing in the All-Filipino Cup.
Mobiline management, on the other hand, said it would appeal the decision.
On the same day, President Estrada accepted the courtesy resignation of Commissioner Tisha Abundo, who was replaced by former Atlanta Games Olympian and national badminton player Amparo "Weena" Lim.
Lim was sworn in at Malacañang by Executive Secretary Zamora which was witnessed Deputy Executive Secretary Ramon Cardenas, Tuason and her uncle Col. Antonio Gana, Ninoy Aquino International Airport general manager.
Boxers Arlan Lerio and Anthony Igusquiza ended the month with a bang by winning gold medals in the Boxam 2000 International tournament in Santander, Spain.
Lerio beat Frenchman Malik Bouziane 7-0 to rule the flyweight class while Igusquiza outclassed Tunisia's Zico Sasi 5-0 to top the featherweight division.( By BONG PEDRALVEZ)
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