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Refuge for the prejudiced


PhilBoxing.com



GAB chairman Baham Mitra.

For decades, we’ve come across sad stories of pro athletes exploited by unscrupulous agents and carpet-bagging promoters. Boxers were short-changed, misguided and some ended up down in the dumps despite glowing careers. The unsavory tales played like a broken record. How can anyone forget former WBA bantamweight and WBC featherweight champion Luisito Espinosa? In 1997, Espinosa battled challenger Carlos Rios in Koronadal and was guaranteed a purse of $130,000 plus training expenses of $10,000. He was paid less than $30,000. Espinosa cried out for justice and went to court. Finally, last January, the Supreme Court ruled that he’s entitled to receive payment of over P6.5 million as the unpaid balance, with interest, of his purse. To this day, he hasn’t been given a centavo despite the decision.

Last March, boxer Jonas Sultan flew to South Africa for a fight but when he arrived, the superflyweight contender was told the event was scrapped. He was promised 10 percent of his $8,000 purse by promoter Rodney Berman, a stipulation in the contract in case of a cancellation not of his doing. Berman said he would pay Sultan $1,000 instead of $800 but to this day, it hasn’t been settled.

Two years ago, IBF superflyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas had issues with a lawyer who claimed he was owed P1 million. WBO bantamweight titlist JohnRiel Casimero was also dragged into a ticklish financial dispute with Las Vegas-based Morris East. The problems appear to be never-ending. And that’s just in pro boxing. There are other similar situations in sports like basketball and football where athletes are prejudiced and left holding an empty bag of broken promises.

To the extent possible within its jurisdiction, GAB will go all out to protect athletes who are victims of injustice. This morning at 11, GAB chairman Baham Mitra will preside in a “Kamustahan” where the main topic is the agency’s program to assist prejudiced pro athletes. “May problema ka ba sa manager, team o atleta mo?” the invitation to the zoom meeting said. “Paano magsumbong sa GAB.” Speaker is GAB Legal Division chief Atty. Emar Benitez, assisted by Atty. Zandalee Billones.. The invitation is open to athletes and sports stakeholders.

“We will teach them how to complain as some of them don’t even know how to write letters,” said Mitra. “GAB has been doing this but many stakeholders aren’t aware. It’s an open invitation for all stakeholders to somehow assist them how to complain and for leagues to find out that we can be of assistance. Some boxers, for instance, are less educated and may need more assistance than others. PBA managers and players may also attend and even the PBA itself or even other leagues.”

Mitra explained that the Legal Division has the mandate to serve summons and draft orders, resolutions and decisions. It is also tasked to prepare position papers and assist in drafting rules and regulations, relevant policies and guidelines. From 2015 to this year, the division has issued 325 orders, summons and resolutions and prepared or assisted in the filing of 643 vital letters, correspondence, position papers and other legal documents. From 2017 to this year, the division has attended or conducted 279 meetings or hearings. It is a five-strong working group consisting of the chief, lawyer III and three staff.

In this morning’s session, Mitra said Benitez and Billones will discuss the Citizen’s Charter on how to file a complaint and the precautionary measures to protect its personnel and clients in the legal procedures during this pandemic. Two days before Christmas, GAB continues to be hard at work. Last Sunday, Mitra himself attended the historic first draft of the Professional Chess Association of the Philippines. Holiday or not, GAB is staying active in supervising, regulating and protecting everyone involved in the various professional sports under its watch.


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Joaquin Henson.


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