June 30, 2014
Written by Ed Andaya

WHO didn’t love former Senator Ana Dominique “Nikki” Coseteng?

She was the Philippine Senate’s version of the ‘Iron Lady.’

Maybe you’ve seen her march on the streets as a fearless street parliamentarian and human right activist in the mid-80s. Maybe you’ve seen her deliver scathing privilege speeches as a chairperson of various Senate committees from 1992-2001. Maybe you’ve seen her perform as Joseph Estrada’s leading lady in the 1989 flick “Sa Kuko ng Agila”, a political film about the presence of US bases in the country.

Or maybe you’ve seen her take a swing at a referee after the controversial Crispa-Mariwasa game in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) in 1983 that led to reforms in officiating in Asia’s first play-for-pay league.

And this time, Coseteng is back to do what she always loves to do all her life: defend the oppressed.

Here, the soon to be 62-year-old politician-turned-sports leader talks about GM Wesley So during an exclusive interview at the President Grand Palace Hotel in Binondo, Manila recently.

Kibitzer: What was y our first reaction when you heard about GM Wesley So’s decision to transfer to the United States Chess Federation and pursue his dream of becoming a world chess champion there?

Coseteng: Very, very sad, of course. Wesley is a very talented player and he is a big loss to the country. Unless we do something, we are now losing a valuable sports asset to the United States.

Kibitzer: What do you think about this controversy, including the refusal of the country’s top sports officials to recognize So’s gold-medal achievement during the 27th Summer Universiade in Kazan?

Coseteng: It is a clear statement of the sad situation on Philippine sports. This controversy makes us a laughing stock in international sports. We have a gold medalist in Kazan Universiade and we do not even recognize his achievement due to the indifference and insensitivity of our own sports officials.

Kibitzer: If you get the chance to talk to top chess officials, what advise will you give them to save the situation and possibly, convince Wesley So to stay?

Coseteng: Keep politics out of sports.

Kibitzer: Wesley So is now waiting for the approval of National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) president Prospero “Butch” Pichay for his transfer request. What will you tell Pichay if you see him?

Coseteng: My friend Butch Pichay should stand up and fight for the rights of Wesley So. I would probably ask him the million-dollar questions: Why is he doing this to Wesley? Is he being pressured or harrassed or forced to shut up by very powerful forces?

Kibitzer: What should these officials do, especially now that Wesley So publicly asked for his transfer from the NCFP to USCF?

Coseteng: Pichay should also now publicly declare whether or not he is recognizing the gold medal of Wesley So in the Kazan Universiade. I was personally in Kazan and knew for a fact that there were more than 180 countries which participated in the Universiade and that the Philippines is one of only 40 countries which have won a the elusive gold medal. It was also the country’s first-ever gold medal in the 54-history of the Olympics of student-athletes.

Kibitzer: What about the incentive that Wesley So did not receive?

Coseteng: Wesley did his best to bring honors to the country. Our sports officials should give him the right incentive given to deserving athletes under the law. If they grant incentives to other athletes, they should do the same to our chess hero.

Kibitzer: When you were in Kazan, what was your initial impression on Wesley So?

Coseteng: I think he’s a very good person. He’s very friendly and outgoing. He laughs a lot and he loves to be with fellow Filipino athletes during his stay at the Athletes Village. I know he’s really proud to be a Filipino.

Kibitzer: What can you say about the request of Wesley So to transfer to the United States where there are more opportunities for him to play in high-level competitions?

Coseteng: Let him go. The only honorable thing to do right now is to grant his request for a release. As a person, it’s his right to pursue his dream (of becoming world chess champion) wherever it takes him. If he feels he can do it better in the US, let him do so. It’s unfair to keep him here. It’s also unfair to ask him to pay that 50,000 euro or sit out two years as a penalty for transferring federation.

Kibitzer: What can you do to help Wesley So in the event that he will not get the go-signal to transfer to the USCF and continue to play in top-level tournaments without sitting out for two years?

Coseteng: I will do my best to help. I will personally visit and urge my former colleagues in the Senate and the House of Representatives to look into the case of Wesley So, a national treasure now being treated shabbily by sports officials. Maybe Cong. Manny Pacquiao, an athlete himself, can help.

Kibitzer: If you’ll get the chance to talk to Wesley So now, what will you tell him?

Coseteng: Thank you for making us proud to be a Filipino. Thank you for all your achievements in chess. Thank you for honoring us with your gold-medal triumph during the Kazan Universiade. And yes, forget about this dirty politics in Philippine sports. Good luck.

Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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