(STAR) By Joey Villar - A plucky javelin thrower from Bicol captured Palaro’s first gold medal but powerhouse National Capital Region struck in various fronts early to jumpstart its title retention bid in the 2007 Palarong Pambansa at the South Cotabato Sports Complex here yesterday.

Despite an all-out campaign and repeated warnings against age cheating, seven regions, including NCR, Central Visayas and host Cotabato Region, still filed a protest against a lawn tennis player from Western Visayas, whom they alleged to be overage.

The group asked the Department of Education to have the player undergo medical and dental tests to prove there was no violation of the 13-year-old age limit in the elementary level.

However, Cornelio Pacala, chair of the screening committee, turned down the request, citing "lack of substantial evidence."

Aiza Rosero, who grew up in a rice field in Buya, Goa, Camarines Sur as the eldest of nine children, heaved the javelin to 36.83 meters to bag the first gold medal staked in this annual meet for elementary and high school students and her second after ruling the 2006 edition in Naga City.

"I’m happy that I won here," said Rosero, a 17-year-old graduate at the Camarines Sur Academy, in Filipino.

She made the feat against strong winds that blew over this searing Southern City noted for its vast agricultural land.

"The wind was really strong but I didn’t let it affect my performance," she added.

Western Visayas’ Josie Entrina and Sharmaine Joy Bucaling took the silver and bronze medals with 35.85m and 34.84m throws, respectively.

The Big City bets, however, stamped their class early.

Ronjay Abing reigned supreme in secondary javelin while Mark Cabuga dominated the triple jump in the elementary division.

The Manilans also came out strong in volleyball where they smothered Western Visayas, 25-15, 25-15, and softball where they edged MIMAROPA, 1-0.

NCR, represented by reigning NCAA titlist San Sebastian, also imposed its will in basketball as it came away with two wins, including one over San Beda-led Southern Tagalog A.

Caraga matched NCR’s hot start in basketball, stunning last year’s runner up Western Visayas, 77-69, for its second straight win.

Radjeev Tahil of Zamboanga, meantime, won the secondary triple jump gold medal with a 14-meter leap, beating Eliseo Santos of Cagayan Valley and Dindo Torres of Cotabato, who settled for silver and bronze medals with 13.29m and 13.28m efforts, respectively.

Cabuga registered 11.29m to snare the gold, besting Cotabato Region’s Melmar Atam (10.97m) and Mark Angelo Pusadas (10.81m).

Palaro and age cheating SPORTS FOR ALL By Philip Ella Juico The Philippine Star 04/24/2007

The 2007 Palarong Pambansa kicked off last Sunday at Koronadal City, the second time in 11 years, amidst the refurbished South Cotabato Sports Complex featuring thousands of elementary and high school athletes, sports officials, government functionaries and spectators.

The Palarong Pambansa or Palaro for short is, in the words of former Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman Perry Mequi, the biggest and most successful promoter of competitive school sports in the country. This Philippine version of the national school games brings together budding athletes from all over the country and should therefore be one of the key components of value formation in the educational system.

Sadly, however, Mequi says it is also where one of the most undesirable aspects of sports is spawned – cheating committed by various parties most often through the submission of spurious documents.

The Palaro began in 1908 as the Carnival Games. It was in 1910, however, that the first National Interscholastic Meet was held. In 1974, the Interscholastics (as it was called for short), became officially known as the Palarong Pambansa.

Today, there are more than 8,000 elementary and secondary students competing in the Palaro in 17 sports disciplines: arnis, athletics, badminton, boxing, chess, football, gymnastics, sipa, sepak takraw, softball, swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, volleyball, arnis and dancesports.

Compared to school sports, intramural program and physical education (which has practically been deemphasized in the school curriculum), the Palaro is amply supported with funding support from the government. The Palaro receives an annual funding of P100 million but physical education activities are subsidized through Local School Boards funds that are often regarded as the proverbial drop in the bucket.

The Palaro recently merited public attention, albeit of the wrong kind, when it was reported that the 2006 games held in Naga City was wrought with cheating. It was reported that college-aged students played in elementary school baseball teams.

In his May 21, 2006 column in Metro Post of Dumaguete City, Mequi, an Asian Games bronze medalist and former director of the Bureau of Physical Education and School Sports of the Department of Education wrote, "The widespread cheating that took place during this year’s Palaro reminded me of stories told about how athletic delegations back in the ’50s and up to the ’70s, on board boats that would make documents appear authentic, utilizing the time that would take them to their destination fabricating documents, supporting the eligibilities of their athletes."

In response to the negative publicity and after conducting a thorough probe, it was reported that the "organizers of the Palarong Pambansa, the annual athletic talent search tainted by age-cheating, vowed to clean up house by imposing new guidelines to weed out ineligible players from this year’s games in South Cotabato."

One of these guidelines is an unbelievable number of signatories in documents that are required to establish the eligibility of participating athletes. Among the signatories indicated are those of the school officials which means the homeroom teacher or adviser, principal, supervisor and district superintendent, a medical certificate from the provincial health officer, athletic record approved by the school coach and birth certificate authenticated by the National Statistics Office. The documents should be signed by the parents or guardian of the student-athlete.

It is clear that the intent behind the number of documents and signatories required is to prevent cheating. Feliciano Toledo, head of the DepEd Task Force on School Sports, justified the institution of such measures because of the "controversy that raged during the 2006 Palaro in Naga City, where at least 10 officials were suspended after being found guilty of doctoring their wards’ birth records – and he said a few of the guilty parties are now facing administrative charges."

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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