Articles written for Racing Sun publication, July 2008.
The Philippine Racing Commission: Past, Present, and Future
By Jenny Ortuoste
CLANG! The gates fly back with a crash. Almost as one, the horses jump out of the gate, muscles flexing under glossy hides, tails streaming in the wind. On their backs, jockeys clutch the reins tightly, faces set in grim concentration as they coax their mounts into the most advantageous positions. A journey of less than two minutes around the track is for them an eternity as they all struggle for victory. Sweat streams, cheers and curses rip the air, whips fly and crack as they round the bend and come roaring down the straight. Fans in the stands bolt out of their seats, fists tight around their betting tickets, urging their choices on. But at the finish line, there can only be one winner.
THIS IS horseracing, the noblest sport of all, the “sport of kings”, and it alive and well in the Philippines. Enjoyed by the elite of society in various forms since the late 1800s, it is today a billion-peso business that not only provides a unique form of entertainment but, more importantly, generates jobs, agricultural development, and revenues for the government.
Acting as overseer of the sport is the Philippine Racing Commission (Philracom), a government agency under the Office of the President. Since it was created on 20 March 1974, the Philracom has kept true to its mandate of supervising the sport and promoting not only racing, but related industries and business initiatives such as thoroughbred breeding and importation.
Horseracing was formerly under the supervision of the Games and Amusements Board (GAB), which to this day regulates other professional sports such as boxing and basketball. With the growth of the sport and its related industries, jurisdiction was transferred to the Philracom, created by Presidential Decree 420.
It was during the term of its first chairman, businessman-horseowner Eduardo “Danding” M. Cojuangco Jr., that the framework for stewardship of horseracing’s concerns was established. During this pioneering period, rules and procedures for the importation of thoroughbreds were drawn up, to encourage the influx of horses to boost the local population for racing and improve breeding stock.
Then, as now, two racing clubs were in existence – the Manila Jockey Club (MJC), located at the San Lazaro Hippodrome in Tayuman, Manila; and the Philippine Racing Club, which had its home in Santa Ana Park, in Makati close to the boundary of Manila.
Beginning in the 1970s, Philracom supported the racing clubs’ efforts to extend the off-track betting station (OTB) network to increase distribution channels and consequently boost sales revenue. Prior to the establishment of OTBs in the 1950s, all viewing and betting was done at the tracks. Around this time, in the ’70s and onwards, attempts were made to broadcast the races, which settled into an accepted activity in the ’80s.
By the 1990s, from 50 or so OTB’s, the network had expanded to over 300, skyrocketing sales even as live broadcast of the races were shown regularly over cable television, reaching audiences not only in OTBs but also homes throughout the nation.
Philracom was supportive of all these efforts, and continued their sponsorship of prestigious, big-money stakes races that attracted racing fans and sustained the expansion of the sport, which has benefited the government with over P1 billion in annual revenues for the past several years.
Today, the Philracom is led by its Chairman, Atty. Jose Ferdinand M. Rojas II, himself a horseowner and breeder of twenty years’ standing and a well-respected member of the racing community. Together with Commissioners Victor Tantoco, Atty. Vergel Cruz, veterinarian Dr. Reynaldo Fernando, Gerardo Espina, and former star jockey Eduardo C. Domingo Jr., they make up the Philracom Board which formulates official policies and rules and regulations governing horse racing. From handicapping to licensing, the Board sets the general vision and sees it to fulfillment, mobilizing members of the industry to work together to achieve common goals.
Providing able support to the Board is the Office of the Executive Director, which manages the Office and its 71 employees, and implements the rules and regulations of horse racing. Executive Director Jorge G. Necesito, a retired admiral of the Philippine Navy, brings his extensive experience in operations and human resources to running the Philracom. He is seconded by Deputy Executive Director Eva Bataller, a career service employee of the Philracom for nearly two decades.
Other departments include Finance and Administration (headed by Susana S. Franco), Legal (under Atty. Ricardo C. Angeles Jr.), Field Inspection Division (run by Dr. Peter S. Rojas, DVM), Regulations and Licensing (headed by Dr. Alejandro C. Cambay, DVM), and the Stud Book Division (headed by Dr. Jose Noel C. Danao, DVM).
Racing sales for 2007 reached an auspicious P8.88 billion pesos, a 1.17% increase over 2006 sales of P8.78 billion. For 2007, Philracom remitted P1.43 billion to the National Treasury as the government’s share of the revenues.
Under Chairman Rojas’ leadership, Philracom is set to fulfill its mandate to “promote and direct the accelerated development and continued growth of horseracing, not only in pursuance of sports development, but also to assure the full exploitation of the sport as a source of revenue and employment.”
Chairman Rojas has envisioned a Master Plan for Horseracing, which sets long-term goals and policies designed to stand the test of time. Among the programs begun this year are the ISO-accreditation of Philracom; creation of an organizational manual; and the revision of the Philracom Rules and Regulations Manual, otherwise known as the “Blue Book”.
Also in the works are an equine laboratory and research center, incorporating an animal drug-testing unit; the pursuance of Philracom’s application for membership to the International Federation of Horse Racing Authorities; and the computerization and automation of many of Philracom’s registration and licensing procedures.
Tall order? Yes, indeed. But Chairman Rojas has more plans and programs lined up to benefit the industry: a long-awaited upgrade of the Philippine Jockeys’ Academy; a modernization program for Philracom based on international “best practices”; and a support plan for the joint task force against illegal bookies, an effort spearheaded by law enforcement agencies.
In addition to all these, there are other plans and programs being developed, but despite all the hard work that is sure to be involved, Chairman Rojas is cheerful and optimistic about the future of racing in the country. “Slowly but gradually,” he says, “we will get to where we want to be. Philippine racing and breeding have so much potential to grow and be at par with more developed racing nations. And Philracom will be here every step of the way until we reach that goal.”
As the horses thunder down the straight, fans cheer themselves hoarse, caught up in the sheer spectacle of power and beauty that is horseracing. A winner flashes past the wire first; to his jockey, owner, and trainer go the trophies that commemorate their victory. As the gold cups are raised aloft, it is proof of the popularity of horseracing in the Philippines, of its sustainability as a sport and as a business enterprise, and as a means for economic growth and nation-building under the firm and benevolent guidance of the Philracom.
By Jenny Ortuoste
Philracom manages its affairs by delegating tasks to its various departments that have control and supervision over particular aspects of the sport. The Agency has a manpower complement of 71, with five Commissioners and one Chairman.
Office of the Chairman and Board of Commissioners
Headed by the Agency’s chairman, Atty. Jose Ferdinand M. Rojas II, and ably assisted by the Board of Commissioners – Atty. Vergel Cruz, Atty. Victor Tantoco, Dr. Reynaldo Fernando DVM, Eduardo Domingo Jr., and Gerardo Espina Jr. – this office formulates policies as well as the rules and regulations governing horseracing.
In practice, the Chairman and Commissioners wield great influence in the sport. Since they all are from the racing world, their long and wide-ranging experience makes them supremely fitted to deal with whatever matters may arise, from handicapping decisions to major crises that have far-reaching implications. The racing and breeding industries look to this Office for guidance on many aspects concerning, but not limited to, regulation and monitoring.
Office of the Executive Director
The Executive Director’s Office, run by retired Admiral Jorge G. Necesito, is a one-stop shop for appeals, requests, complaints, and all the nitty-gritty of running the sport. It is the perhaps the busiest among the different departments, as it is usually among the first to be approached by racing insiders and the public as well.
Director Necesito, with his vast operational experience gained from many years of service in the Philippine Navy, manages the entire office as well as implements the rules and regulations of horseracing, as formulated by the Office of the Chairman and Commissioners. The Director also exercises overall authority in planning, directing, and coordinating the administrative and technical activities of the Commission.
The Executive Director is assisted by the Acting Deputy Executive Director, Ms. Eva Bataller, who is a career service officer of the Philracom of many years’ standing.
Ms. Bataller is directly responsible for the smooth running of the Administrative Division, which has control and supervision over internal matters, with regard to office operations, personnel, and the like. It is her office that produces the annual accomplishment report, and provides the data necessary for strategic business planning not only for the Philracom but also for the entire industry.
The Finance Department, actually a part of the Administrative Division, is headed by Ms. Susana S. Franco, also a long-time Philracom employee. Finance deals with internal matters (payroll and the like), assists with the computation and disbursement of prize money for Philracom-sponsored races, and performs other necessary accounting tasks.
Atty. Ricardo C. Angeles Jr., head of the Legal Division, supervises and coordinates the legal function of the Commission involving the review, preparation, and interpretation of legal documents as well as the investigation and hearing of cases arising from the violation of rules and regulations on horse racing.
Field Inspection Division
This Division, well-guided by Dr. Peter S. Rojas, DVM, has a very great responsibility to fulfil as its personnel are the front-liners in monitoring and supervising race conduct in the field. They implement the rules and regulations of horse racing, and file reports on violations, irregularities, and any such infractions of the racing rules committed during racing days.
Regulation and Licensing Division
Races may not be conducted if its officials and other participants – owners, trainers, jockeys, and the like – are unlicensed. This is the task of this Division, run by Dr. Alejandro C. Cambay Jr., DVM. He directs, supervises, and coordinates matters of licensing and registration involving horseracing. This division also collates policies, rules and regulations, and amendments. In addition, they also plan, direct, coordinate, and implement technical activities of the Commission. For instance, in the case of outbreaks of epidemics, it is Dr. Cambay who is in the forefront of coordinating the programs created to deal with such crises.
Stud Book Division
This Division, formerly under the National Stud Farm (now dissolved), is headed by Dr. Jose Noel Danao, DVM. They perform the important tasks of regulating horse breeding, inspecting racehorses, conducting blood typing and parentage verifications. This division also issues registration certificates for qualified foals, broodmares, and stallions, as well as publishes the Philippine Stud Book, a copy of which is sent to international agencies so that local bloodstock may be acknowledged abroad. ***