MANILA, MAY 1, 2007
(STAR) SPORTS FOR ALL By Philip Ella Juico - The Palarong Pambansa ended in Koronadal City last Sunday with the National Capital Region (NCR) retaining the overall titles in both the elementary and secondary levels.

The Palarong Pambansa or Palaro has such a rich, albeit, roller coaster-like history. As expected, the major problem of the Palaro has been funding. It has been a problem for school teachers because there were no funds appropriated at various stages, from the school intramurals, to the district, division, regional and finally to the national Palaro. To "solve" this problem, school principals asked their teachers for "voluntary" contributions for the support of their teams. These contributions came from salary deductions.

No one among the teachers ever dared to complain against this practice, thus it was never discussed. The irony of the situation was, the more successful the athletes of a particular school were, the more the teachers contributed to their sustenance as the athletes move up from intramurals to the regional and national competitions.

It is interesting to note that it took the first woman President of the Philippines, Corazon C. Aquino, mother of senatorial candidate Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino, to solve this problem afflicting this yearly gathering of school boys and girls.

In the opening ceremonies of the 1991 Palaro in Iloilo City, she announced that she would "institutionalize the Palarong Pambansa as a regular program of the government by providing the sum of P100 million for it in the General Appropriations Act next year (1992)."

And indeed, for the first time in the history of the Palaro, in 1993, the public school teachers were relieved of the burden of contributing part of their monthly salaries to insure that the annual school games would be staged.

While the public school teachers were relieved of this unjust burden that they had been carrying for the past several years, some power hungry and ignorant parties gave the bum advice to then President Joseph Estrada to "transfer the sports programs and activities of the Department of Education, Culture and Sports to the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC)." President Estrada signed Executive Order No. 81 that resulted in the deletion of the P100 million funding of the Palaro and the PSC (which is basically Manila-based) managing the national school games.

When I was chairman of the PSC, I had consistently objected to the transfer of the Palaro from the then DECS to the PSC even it meant more power for the PSC and funds at our disposal. I recall Cong. Salvador Escudero III, chairman of the House Committee on Education, asking me just before he convened formal hearings at the Batasan if I wanted to take over the Palaro from the DECS.

I said that it would be better to have the DepEd manage the Palaro for the simple reason that the PSC did not have the national organization to mobilize the students, teachers and DepEd officials. The other reason I gave was that the PSC did not have access to, could hardly influence and certainly did not have control over the student-athletes, teachers and officials whose cooperation was crucial to the success of the games.

One other reason that I gave privately then to Escudero was my fear that giving PSC so much money would also serve as a magnet to those who wanted to make money out of the yearly appropriation for the Palaro. The metaphor I used then was, once PSC gets hold of that money, the PSC would be like dung attracting flies from all over the place. I added I did not want to give undue stress to the PSC bureaucracy with that kind of money. I told Escudero I would rather however that PSC continue to improve performing its basic and fundamental role of providing technical advice to DepEd.

The Palaro is but one of the programs that give life to several specific provisions in Article XIV of the Philippine Constitution that mandates the State to promote physical education and sports. The Philippines is probably the only country in Asia that has such a provision in its Constitution. This distinction is however being undermined by organized moves that tend to minimize the role of physical education in the country’s overall sports development.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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