I must have spoken too soon. A few weeks ago, I wrote a story on President’s Duterte’s first 100 years in office to the effect that winds of change finally beacons for Philippine sports following six years of neglect under the watch of former Chief of State Benigno Simeon Aquino III. This was so, I reported, after PRRD, upon assumption of the highest seat of the government and, to my thinking moved by lady weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz’s silver medal performance in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, issued marching orders after another to his newly appointed members of he board of the Philippine Sports Commission in his initial effort to remedy the seemingly dying state of sports in this shore.
President D-30, for instance, to show he’s not joking, immediately handed Diaz, a pint-sized Zamboangueñan Air Force sergeant, a $500 incentive, raising by $200 the $300 she received as allowance in her two-week efforts that ended the country’s 20-year medal medal drought in the what is dubbed “The Greatest Sports Show On Earth.” As soon, too, PSC chair Butch Ramirez and his commissioners – basketball great Ramon Fernandez, the President’s fellow Davaoeño Charles Maxey, former sepak takraw head Celia Kiram and Conrad Azurin — effected measures they believed will cure what ails PH sports.
Indeed, it looked like sports is about to rise to the status it used to enjoy in international sporting community. Until a pair of unsavory developments took place in a span of two weeks lately being the President’s failure to attend the send off ceremony for the PH delegation going to Kuala Lumpur to do battle with their counterparts from 11 other member countries in the 29th staging of the Southeast Asian Games, an unwritten obligation that started by President Manuel Quezon of the commonwealth times and practiced by all Chiefs of State that followed except Aquino III.
Not a few athletes, of course, expressed disgust with Duterte’ non-appearance in such an important affair held as added inspiration and motivation to athletes going overseas to bring honor not only to themselves but the country and people as well. “Tagal na naming hindi nakikita ang Pangulo ah. Anim na ton na,” exclaimed one potential gold medalist. Akala ko pa naman at ng aking teammates may mangyayari nang pababago. Wala pa rin pala.”
Told of the prevailing sentiments among athletes, Ramirez, one of PRRD’s closest allies since his stint as Mayor of Davao City, explained his boss didn’t intend to snub the occasion. “The President is just too busy these days, especially because of attending to his duties as chair of the recently-ended 50th anniversary celebration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations,” The apologetic PSC boss man said. “I hope our athletes understand. He’ll make it up to them next time.”
The first faux pas this administration committed was the government’s withdrawal of support to the country’s hosting of the 2019 SEA Games, which many consider is tantamount to sacrificing its duties and responsibilities to building a strong and healthy citizenry which sports is all about actually. I have tackled this issue though lengthily in several articles I wrote that came out in this page.
I thought for a while that we just won an OIympic gold medal upon reading the local newspapers’ exaggerated accounts of the recent victory of the Philippine basketball team over perennial tormentor China in the on-going FIBA-Asia World Cup qualifier in Beirut, Lebanon. One broadsheet even carried the story on its front page.
I said exaggerated because the Chinese team that beat our team is only that country’s Team B and not the real national squad that won this same tournament at the expense, who else but the Filipinos, two years ago. That victory, in other words was no big deal. Nothing to boast about.
As one colleague of mine exclaimed: It’s only China’s Team B, Bebe!”
It surprised those in the know really how Philippine media missed that point. That’s the trouble with covering sorting events via press releases.