Horseowners, Philracom Clash

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Since the controversial installation of retired Philippine National Police general Florencio Fianza two years ago as the chairman of the Philippine Racing Commission (Philracom), the horseowners have been divided over whether or not to support him given the massive changes he has enforced.

Early this year, an outcry about a new handicapping scheme led to a schism within MARHO (Metropolitan Association of Race Horse Owners), the oldest and most influential group in the industry. A split was narrowly averted two months ago after a general membership meeting which sought to reconcile the various disagreeing factions.

Despite Fianza’s report of gains in the industry under his leadership, as disclosed today in a press release in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI), many insiders mistrust him and seek his ouster.

They took out a full-page space also in today’s PDI with their “Urgent Appeal to the President” requesting President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for a “complete change of leadership and revamp of the Board of Commissioners of Philracom.”

Below is the text of the letter as it appeared in PDI:

 

URGENT APPEAL TO THE PRESIDENT

 

 

For the sake of horseracing and the various segments who have painstakingly nurtured its growth through years of hard work and substantial investments in financial resources aggregating P12 billion, employ thousands of workers, and generate P1.2 billion in annual government revenues, we respectfully request for a complete change of leadership and revamp of the Board of Commissioners of Philracom.

 

 

HER EXCELLENCY

GLORIA MACAPAGAL ARROYO

President

Republic of the Philippines

Malacanang Palace

Manila, Philippines

 

HER EXCELLENCY:

 

It is with the deepest respect that we, members of the local horseracing industry, reiterate our urgent appeal to you for a complete revamp of the Philippine Racing Commission (Philracom) in view of the deplorable state of affairs since the appointment of Ret. Police Gen. Florencio Fianza as Chairman of said government agency.

 

In our original letter to Her Excellency dated March 5, 2007, we brought to your attention Gen. Fianza’s belligerent attitude against the horse owners, his lack of knowledge on the rudiments and intricacies of racing which has led to the issuance of controversial resolutions, and his total failure to muster the support of the various segments of the industry, thereby causing confusion on the direction and growth of local horseracing. In addition, Gen. Fianza used “vulgar” language in addressing an industry forum, a misconduct not befitting a gentleman and public servant. That meeting ended with a very deep animosity and a continuing distrust of the horseowners on the incumbent Chairman.

 

Since then, local horseracing has been in the doldrums and continues to operate in a vacuum. No clear course of action has been charted as to the overall direction of the sport, to the chagrin and absolute dismay of all concerned. Added to these woes are a new set of erroneous policy directives which, at best, only damage rather than uplift the sport, to wit:

 

  1. A Philracom “tentative resolution” dated June 14, 2007, on importation of racehorses was passed which seeks to resurrect antiquated policies which have been negated by previous Commissions and updated by the same to conform to prevailing international standards of horseracing. The restrictions on age qualification and purse earnings abroad are likewise passé. The restriction on ownership status contravenes our nation’s free trade policy and of doubtful constitutionality [sic]. Unfortunately, Gen. Fianza knows no better on these intricate rulings and simply heeds the prodding of “myopic thinkers” in the Commission to issue counter-productive resolutions. All horseowners’ organizations are totally against these retrogressive pronouncements.

 

  1. The revision of the two-year-old stakes calendar from the traditional schedule of July 2007 back to March 2007 threw all horseowners and trainers into a state of confusion because the majority population of two-year-olds were still very raw and young and were not yet ready for competitive racing. Why this resolution was passed puzzled many and horseowners voiced out in unison that indeed, this is another clear indication that Gen. Fianza knew nothing about the basic anatomy of a horse much less the sport of horseracing.

 

Unfortunately, the prime movers against all these nuisance impositions received summons from Gen. Fianza to air their side of an alleged collusion to boycott the races, which he considered to be an act of economic sabotage. Simultaneously, veiled threats in the form of cardboard coffins were received by these critics in their offices and residences, obviously to intimidate and sow fear in them. This narcissistic police mentality has no place in the “Sport of Kings”.

 

When Gen. Fianza assumed the office of Chairman, the betting public thought that he is the “white knight” who can smoothen the perennial problems of illegal bookie operations, the use of banned drugs on horses, the much-to-be desired officiating of our race stewards and dishonest jockeys – they too were disappointed as their new chairman and his colleagues in the Commission did nothing substantial to solve these problems. All told, this litany of problems including previous preposterous rulings on handicapping and allocation of prize money contained in our original letter will continue to persist for as long as we have an inefficient commission under the current leadership. This is truly a classic case of pure managerial incompetence in running the commission.

 

Sad to say, Gen. Fianza is simply not the right man for the job.

 

Madame President, in line with your planned re-organization of the bureaucracy and your earnest desire to recruit the best and brightest to run industries such as horseracing, we urgently reiterate our request for a complete revamp of the Philracom to pave the way for a new commission composed of people who possess competence, integrity, and dedication to the job at hand. We need people who truly understand the rudiments of the game and are well-equipped with the mental calisthenics to untangle the mess created by the Fianza commission and adroitly craft the correct regulatory policies.

 

Hopefully, this urgent appeal would be given due consideration by Her Excellency.

 

Signed,

 

Aristeo G. Puyat, Augusto Benedicto L. Santos, Jose L. Santos, Norberto Quisumbing Jr., Luis Asistio Sr., Jose Mari Franco, Augusto de Jesus, Eric Tagle, Roman L. Santos, Andrew Sanchez, Albert Yam, Dante Arevalo, Victor Martinez, Ramon Balatbat, Ramon Jesus Mamon, Marlon Cunanan, Emmanuel Santos, Rodolfo G. Mendoza, Enrique Javier, Joseph Dyhengco, Leandro Naval, Francisco Cayco, Valentin Cayco, Papiroman Farms, Mar Tirona, Elias Chua, Robert Francisco, Victor Ferrer Jr., Pierre Niles, Carlos Robes, Alfredo Cruz, Ruben Laureano, David So, Sir J Express, Valentin Guerra, Maximo Guce, Emilio Basco, Rogelio Catajan, William Fernandez.

 

This appeal is a follow-up to an initial letter they sent to the President last March 5. They received no response, thus the conspicuous full-page ad today to draw attention to the issue.

It is ironic that the same issue of PDI contains a press release from Philracom that points out in glowing terms Gen. Fianza’s accomplishments so far and his plans for next year [full text below]:

 

Philracom on track for P10-B year

Even with more than five months to go before the end of the current racing season, the Philracom has already surpassed its earnings for all of last year and is on course towards posting the all-time mark in sales of close to P10 billion.

After showing a dip in sales of P200 million last year compared to 2005, sales this year have improved by P263 million from January to June alone, and the racing commission expects no less than a total improvement of P600 million in overall sales for the year.

The Philracom is targeting total sales of around P9.8 billion by the end of the year, which would mean something like P1.5 billion in taxes which the government uses to finance, among other things, the Philippine Sports Commission.

“We have given the industry a more level playing field, that’s why people bet in the races more,” said retired police general Florencio Fianza, who is entering the second year of chairmanship of the agency.

Fianza, who curbed out some of the bad practices in the industry and enforced new rules in handicapping at the start of the year, has also started renovating the offices in Makati, which will end with the computerization of the entire agency.

The Philracom was given a P61 million budget by the government to work with for the year, and if the agency does achieve its P9.8 billion target, the Philracom will come up with returns of around 25 times for the government’s investment.

“That’s why we will up prizes (in stakes races) next year by another P15 million, to entice the horseowners more and give the public better races,” added Fianza, who will do something unprecedented next year by putting up additional prizes in regular races.

For next year, there will be 100 regular races which will carry additional prizes of P50,000 each, which would up the regular take of the winners and placers from somewhere to P150,000 to P160,000 per won race.

Also, all stakes races sponsored by the Philracom for next year will carry added prizes of no less than P1 million each aside from the introduction of a “Philracom Monthly Race” that will have pots of P500,000 each.

Industry stakeholders are apprehensive over the escalation of the misunderstanding and conflict between opposing factions and worry that this development might set back the gains achieved thus far for the year. ***

Photo: Gen. Fianza as he looked in the late 1980s, when he was connected with the La Union Police Provincial Office.

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