New boxing agency or not?

Senator Manny Pacquiao was recently quoted to have said that because there are many cases of boxing-related deaths in the Philippines, he is filing a bill to create a boxing agency separate from the Games and Amusements Board.

GAB is an agency under the Office of the President that is tasked with supervising professional sports, including the boxing, basketball, golf, and bowling. Among GAB’s duties is the issuance of licenses to professional athletes and the monitoring of such games to ensure that rules are followed and safety ensured.

Pacquiao claimed that under the GAB, boxing “is not given [the] proper and appropriate attention it deserves.” His proposed bill aims to create the Philippine Boxing Commission, with its own office, set of officers, structure, and, of course, budget.

Pacquiao’s claims of neglect of the sport were denied by GAB Chairman Baham Mitra, who in an interview with Manila Standard Talk said that there have been no deaths under his watch. The last was said to have occurred in 2012 in Caloocan City, and before that in 2008.

What Pacquiao is proposing is the spinning-off from a “mothership” agency of a smaller, more specialized unit. This is not a new concept and it has been done before —and also to GAB, in fact.

GAB used to have horseracing under its umbrella, but during the time of President Marcos, it was plucked off by Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr. in 1974 when he formed the Philippine Racing Commission, of which he was chairman. The aim was similar—to give the sport the attention and promotion it needed to develop its potential, attention it was said to have not been receiving when it was lumped with other sports.

Philracom’s charter, Presidential Decree No. 420, states that the functions of the GAB “with respect to horseracing, except those related to the supervision and regulation of betting in horseracing…are hereby transferred to the Commission. The [GAB] shall continue to supervise jai-alai, boxing, and wrestling activities…”

Pacquiao’s proposed boxing commission would be of a similar nature.

However, some lawmakers in the past have, far from forming niche agencies, attempted to consolidate the supervision of professional games and gaming under one umbrella. The most recent try was in the last Congress, by Rep. Aleta Suarez (3rd district, Quezon), whose “Act Creating the National Gaming Commission” of 2013 sought to merge under the NGC’s supervision the casinos under Pagcor, the lottery run by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, the horse races under Philracom, and “cockfighting and other existing numbers games” such as the illegal jueteng.

I recall being present at the hearing for this bill, to which were invited the heads of the aforementioned agencies. Naturally they all said that merging all these activities under one umbrella agency was not a good idea. So the bill remains “pending” with the Games and Amusements Committee of the Lower House.

On one hand you have a lawmaker spinning off an agency, and on the other, one who moves for consolidation of similar tasks and duties. What’s the better option? The argument can go both ways.  

The creation of specialized niche agencies leads to more job opportunities for civil servants, and allows the particular kind of attention necessary to be given to the industry in question.

However, it can also lead to more red tape and bureaucratic maneuvering. There could be more instances of graft and corruption and conflicts of interest should such an agency be populated by persons who have vested interests.

What makes one or the other the right option depends largely on the character of the people who will be put in control of such a body.

Pacquiao’s proposal for a boxing commission may be well-intended, but he should be reminded that this is politics now, not sports. Any proposal for a boxing commission should be carefully studied on whether it will actually benefit boxers to a large extent—or other people.

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Dr. Ortuoste is a California-based writer. Facebook: Gogirl Racing and Jenny Ortuoste, Twitter: @gogirlracing and @jennyortuoste, and Instagram: @jensdecember and @artuoste

Topics: New boxing agency or not?

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