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Legal war looms as Peping Cojuangco says he has the goods on Mon Fernandez.
Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose ‘Peping’ Cojuangco Wednesday shrugged off the R10-million libel case filed by former basketball star Mon Fernandez whom the veteran politician branded a game-fixer during a weekly sportswriters forum last February.
“Akala ba nya eh nanginginig ako sa takot?” Cojuangco told Tempo after presiding over the POC’s General Assembly at Wack Wack.
Cojuangco said he has a counter legal action in mind but did not elaborate, boasting that he has people who can substantiate his bold claim.
“Magsasalita ba ako ng ganoong mga bagay kung hindi ako sigurado?”
On radio yesterday, the POC honcho even said: “Meron pa kong gagawin; tignan natin kung sino mabibilanggo.”
Fernandez filed the case in Cebu City on Tuesday and revealed that the only way he will withdraw the case and settle out of court is if Cojuangco, 82, retracts his statement, issue a public apology and step down as POC president.
Since taking over the POC in 2004, Fernandez, 63, insists that the former Tarlac congressman and younger brother of former President Corazon C. Aquino had done nothing to elevate Philippine sports.
For months after being assigned to the PSC by President Rodrigo Duterte, Fernandez lashed at the POC for its bevy of misdeeds, including gaining financial assistance from the PSC from 2010 to 2016.
Accusations of game fixing have been raised many times in the past but none of them were proven and Fernandez said it was difficult for him to let go of Cojuangco’s scathing accusation.
“There had been such kind of accusations against me in the past but it was never substantiated. I was never charged.
Ngayon ginawa niya yun, I have to do something,” said Fernandez, who was accompanied by his wife Karla Kintanar-Fernandez and lawyer Ramsey Quijano when he filed the case.
“I wouldn’t have minded if he made the allegations when I was still playing. I would have let my game do the talking.
But it’s a different story now. He should have given respect to the position I’m in right now, being an assistant secretary to the President at that.”
Fernandez also took note of Cojuangco’s alleged misuse of funds that came from the PSC during the time of close friend Richie Garcia.
According to documents that Fernandez submitted, the POC was said to have benefitted heavily from his closeness with Garcia to the tune of P129-million from 2010 until 2016 that was sometimes camouflaged as financial help to athletes.
In 2013, the PSC even allotted P38-million for the POC’s holding of the Asian Games Centennial that was scrapped at the last minute because of super typhoon Yolanda.
“You spent P38 million for a single event na alam natin hindi natuloy dahil binagyo. Is that a sporting program for the athletes? Is it the mandate of the PSC to fund such event? The POC has to liquidate because that’s people’s money.”
Fernandez also raised the issue of the country’s deteriorating performance in the international scene that even in the biennial Southeast Asian Games, the Philippines was lagging behind.
“The real issue here is the abuse of power. Ang pera ng PSC ay para sa mga atleta but ang nangyari ay parang naging milking cow ng POC ang PSC kaya kawawa ang mga atleta. I am doing this as a former national player,” said Fernandez.
Still, Fernandez says he is willing to sit down with Cojuangco for an out-of-court settlement.
“Like a true sportsman, we can always talk about it if they want to settle out of court. I am putting up a sports program targeting to win a medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, maybe he can fund that.”
While, the case filed by Fernandez was not tackled, Cojuangco’s allies in the POC admit that the best way to remedy the problem is for the two gentlemen to patch things up.
“Na-iipit ang atleta sa mga nangyayari,” said POC treasurer Julian Camacho of wushu. “I hope they eventually get to settle this.”
Frank Elizalde, former International Olympic Committee representative to the Philippines, swears that the POC “is not antagonizing” its relationship with the PSC.
“It’s up the to the PSC,” said Elizalde, when asked how the feud can addressed.
“We all have our areas of responsibilities…” said Elizalde, adding that he is “not fanatical” with Cojuangco.