Sports Eye

Ex-Sen. Padilla, other sportsmen in politics

Jess Garcia

By Jesus A. Garcia Jr.


“SPORTS should not be mixed with politics” as the saying goes. Yes, and that should not really be done because we know that political affairs here in Juan dela Cruz land are so dirty and too good to be true. But regrettably that is now the trend in the country. Being famous or superstars in Philippine sports induce athletes to join the political fray. Even actors and actresses in Philippine movies are also dominating the political arena. Vilma Santos, Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Jr., Jinggoy Estrada, Robert Jaworski, Freddie Webb, Aga Mulach to name a few. But unknown to many, especially the youth now, this was started by our very own senator, the Lingayen-born Ambrosio Padilla.

The Ateneo de Manila-educated Padilla was a basketball superstar during his heydays and lifted his alma mater to championship in the 1928 NCAA and also part of the team that represented the Philippines in the now defunct Far Eastern Games that won the gold medal twice.

In 1936, the lawyer Padilla led the Philippine team to a fifth place finish in the Berlin Olympic Games, which until now remains the best finish by an Asian country in Olympic history. Aside from basketball, he became also a varsity player of Ateneo’s baseball team.  He retired from basketball in 1938 and because of his tremendous popularity in the field of sports, the lawyer joined the senate race, won, and became the minority leader of the council from 1957 to 1972.

I personally met the lawmaker from Lingayen at the house of former Mangaldan Mayor Macario G. Ydia few days after the 1967 Tour of Luzon where I won my second plum as first runner-up of the fabled Tour. It was then when I found out that the guy who was appointed then by president Corazon Aquino to draft the new constitution for the country in 1986 was accommodating and so friendly. Of course we talked about everything about sports, him being a basketball and baseball player and me as a professional cyclist. He asked me how hard and how strenuous a multi-stage bicycle race was.

The fiscalizer Padilla, whom I idolized as an athlete and as a senator for opposing the martial law regime of former president Ferdinand Marcos, died on August 7, 1996 at the age of 85. He was inducted into the Philippine National Basketball Hall of Fame in January 1999 along with other basketball icons like Carlos Lozaga, Lauro Mumar, Edgardo Ocampo, among others.

Admittedly, I also joined the political arena in 1967 and was elected as the fourth councilman of my village Buenlag in Mangaldan. I may be wrong but I believe I was then one of the youngest elected kagawads in the country being 21 years of age at that time. (Voting age at that time was 21). I did not run for re-election in 1971 but ran again as kagawad in 1982 and placed third, losing by 12 and three votes to the first and second placers, respectively. After four years of serving, I quit politics for good, finding out that politics is so dirty, especially now. No need to explain, you know better than me.

Numerous sports celebrities shone in this year’s election led by Filipino boxing legend former world champion Manny Pacquiao, winning his second term unopposed as congressman of the lone district of Sarangani and his wife, Jinkee, as vice governor of the province. National cycling top honcho Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino was also victorious as representative of the 7th District of Cavite and ex-congressman and former Philippine Olympic Committee chairman Monico Puentevella bagged the mayoralty race in Bacolod City. Basketball mentor Franz Pumaren, former Asian taekwondo titlist Ali Atienza and erstwhile PBA cager Jason Webb also won as councilors in their respective places while Pampanga three-termer vice governor Yeng Guiao got the congressional position in the 1st District. Last but not the least that I know was Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas chair and ex-Misamis Oriental governor Oscar Moreno (not the elected vice mayor of Manila) winning this time the mayoralty post of Cagayan de Oro City. I was informed that former PBA player Renato “Ato” Agustin lost the vice mayoralty race in San Fernando, Pampanga as well as Crispa former player Joey Marquez in the congressional contest of Caloocan City.

And I believe more will mix it up when the barangay polls on October finally pushes through. It’s really very noticeable that many sportsmen in this country are using their popularity as their vehicle to win a political post in any kind of election despite the dirtiness and messiness of its nature. Amen.

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QUOTE OF THE WEEK: The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked; but he blesses the home of the just. Surely He scorns the scornful, but gives grace to the humble. The wise shall inherit the glory, but shame shall be the legacy of the fools. PROVERBS 3: 33-35

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