HANGZHOU—Philippine Olympic Committee president Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino unleashed his pent-up disgust and frustration over the Philippine Sports Commission, which he described as having given teamwork a different meaning and created a wedge between the two major sports organizations during the 19th Asian Games.
Tolentino’s disgust stemmed from a PSC letter to the POC indicating a P10-million unliquidated financial assistance to the Olympic organization for Filipino athletes’ participation in the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games.
The letter, coursed through the PSC’s in-house Commission on Audit office, was dated September 20—a day after Tolentino and top POC officials arrived here, the same day Hangzhou welcomed the Philippine delegation in a formal flag-raising ceremony at the Asian Games Village and three days before the opening ceremony.
“Why send the letter on September 20? Why not after the closing ceremony? Perhaps October 10, when we have all gone home,” Tolentino told Filipino reporters covering the on Saturday, the morning after the Philippines bagged the men’s basketball crown for its fourth gold medal in the games.
“I kept this to myself since the start of the games, but after we reached my goal of four gold medals, I couldn’t keep this to myself any longer,” Tolentino said. “It’s that bad.”
The unliquidated P10 million is traced back to the term of Cristy Ramos as president of the POC, which had experienced issues with the PSC, then chaired by Philip Ella Juico. Ramos sought Malacanang’s help for the Bangkok 1998 campaign with then President Fidel Ramos heeding the request that cascaded down the government sports arm.
The financial assistance for the Bangkok campaign was sourced from the Philippine Amusements and Gaming Corp, but was eventually deducted as the government gaming body’s contribution to the PSC.
“We weren’t even born yet [in 1998],” said Tolentino, who in 1998 was involved in top-tier sports, more so in the POC—he was elected interim president in 2018 and officially got the post in 2020.
Tolentino added that the particular PSC check of P10 million was released only in September 2016, 18 years after the Bangkok games.”
“While we were here on the first day [September 19] and waving the Philippine flag, they sent us the letter with an instruction “to answer within five days” upon receipt,” he said. “Give me one valid reason for the Filipino people on the timing of the sending the letter … Why? To distract us? That’s malicious intent … bad faith.”
Tolentino slammed the move as opposed to teamwork at the Asian Games, where winning gold—or a bronze—is a tough task.
“We’re not working as a team here,” he said. “Perhaps the PSC’s looking for ways to get back at the POC and in their haste, they did that through this unliquidated issue.”
He added: “Is that the right thing to do? Is that from someone who’s in his right mind if we’re supposed to be on the same team in these Asian Games?”
The PSC also asked the POC to liquidate P2.5 million in financial assistance to athletes and officials in last year’s Vietnam Southeast Asian Games and another P600,000 for the national swimming team’s preparation and participation in the Cambodia SEA Games last May.
“That P2.5 million [Vietnam] we can liquidate because it was spent for the airfare of athletes and coaches who flew early for the SEA Games, even Commission [Olivia] Bong Coo availed herself of that early departure to Vietnam,” Tolentino said.
“On the assistance to the swimming team, we’re reconciling all the documents … that we’ll liquidate because the swimming association was suspended then and the POC supervised its operations,” he added.
“But not the P10M for the 1998 Asian Games,” Tolentino stressed.
Tolentino said that traditionally, notices for liquidation are sent to the POC by the PSC Accounting Office.
“We’re not under COA, were not government, we’re a private entity,” he said.
Tolentino said the PSC could be getting back at the POC for having taken the responsibility to book flights for athletes and officials for Hangzhou.
“Ten days before the Asian Games, no athlete has been booked for Hangzhou, so the POC stepped in and booked the flights through Cathay Pacific at face value [online], no add ons, no profit,” he said. “I used my own funds to pay the booking and reimbursed the POC as approved by our board.”
Tolentino said he and the POC advanced at least P16 million for the plane tickets.
“Now this, if you have an unliquidated account, you cannot reimburse from the PSC,” said Tolentino. “We’re not a team here.”
Tolentino said the issue could have an impact on the Paris 2024 Olympics campaign.
“If that’s the attitude, forget the relationship for Paris. “Since Day 1, we haven’t seen [eye to eye] each other … how can we talk if you’re being stabbed on the back.”
“I don’t want the athletes to be affected by any of these issues. If they won’t change [attitude], they might as well leave the PSC,” he said.