President Rodrigo Duterte honored over 800 Filipino athletes who competed in the 30th Southeast Asian Games held from November 30 to December 11.
In his speech, Duterte personally congratulated the Filipino athletes for winning the overall championship in the biennial regional multi-sport event.
“I am deeply honored to be in the presence of our athletes who have emerged victorious in the recently concluded 30th Southeast Asian Games held in our country. Your triumph showcases the athleticism and sporting prowess of our people to our neighbors in Southeast Asia,” Duterte said.
“I am really very happy to no end,” he added, noting that he would brag about Filipino athletes to Southeast Asian neighbors.
A total of 149 gold, 117 silver, and 121 bronze medals were snagged by the Philippine team to win the overall championship since 2005 and its second top finish in the history of the SEA Games.
Duterte described the country’s overall championship as a “windfall” or unexpected good fortune despite particular logistical issues prior to the SEA Games’ formal opening.
He also committed to give the athletes an additional PHP21 million on top of the incentives to medalists provided by the law.
Republic Act 10699 grants PHP300,000; PHP150,000; and PHP60,000 for SEA Games’ gold, silver, and bronze medalists, respectively.
The President, meanwhile, floated the possibility of asking Congress to raise the monthly allowances of Filipino national athletes.
“I’ll try to talk things over with Congress. Yung allowance ninyo, dapat yung pagkain libre na. Yung allowance ninyo, allowance na ninyo ‘yan (You should keep the allowance to yourselves. Food should be free),” Duterte said.
“PHP250,000 a month, okay na siguro ‘yan (does it sound okay to you)? We will try to raise the money,” he added.
On top of the incentives, Duterte conferred the Order of Lapu-Lapu rank of Kamagi to all of the medalists.
The Order of Lapu-Lapu is given to those “deserving of merit and recognition and to fully express the President’s appreciation of the Filipino people’s contributions to the success of the campaigns and the programs of the government.”
Also during the event, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) turned over PHP117 million for the incentives of medalists.
Duterte later prodded Pagcor chair Andrea Domingo to providing an additional PHP100 million for the medalists.
Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) William “Butch” Ramirez presented the President with the Philippine team’s trophy for its winning overall championship.
Duterte also obliged for a “groufie” with Filipino athletes while remaining on stage.
Stay out of drugs, terrorism
Warning athletes that illegal drugs and terrorism could destroy their lives, the President also urged athletes to instead “seek sanctuary” in the many human activities such as sports.
Duterte discouraged them from using illegal drugs, saying that it “is really a more dangerous thing to do.”
He also expressed his desire to end communist insurgency anew, stressing the youth were made to believe that it was an easy way of getting out of poverty.
“Pag pumasok kayo diyan habang ako naging Presidente, delikado talaga ‘yan (If you join rebel groups while I’m President, that’s really dangerous). Stay out of it. It is the most dangerous activity that you can really mess up with. Mamatay ka diyan (You could die there),” Duterte said.
“Ngayon, sa sports nalang maghanap nalang ng pera, mag-training kayo (Look for money through sports. Continue training). I don’t mind. Basta (Just) stay clean,” he added.
The President defended anew his controversial war on drugs, saying he was “cruel in many ways” because he loved the country and the youth.
He also hit human rights groups anew for lacking common sense, noting that killing drug lords and other criminals was the best way to ensure a safer country.
Secret weapon vs. drugs
Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee (Phisgoc) chairman and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said promoting sports is one of the President’s “secret weapons” in fighting illegal drugs.
“When the President took office in 2016, he had one directive for us, one clear vision: a safe and comfortable life for all. At simple lang po ang guidelines niya (And his guidelines are simple). If you remove crime especially drugs, corruption from the country, we can give every single Filipino a safe and comfortable life,” Cayetano said.
“Many, especially those in the West, akala po nila unidimensional yung approach ni Presidente sapagkat very simple ang utos niya– (thought the President’s approach was undimensional because his order is simple) to fight crime, corruption, drugs, safe and comfortable life not knowing that sports was one of the secret weapons of President Duterte in fighting drugs, in giving our young people a better future,” he added.
Cayetano, meanwhile, thanked the President for considering sports as “part of nation-building.”
“You cannot take sports, culture out of education and if we truly believe in sports, we will put our money where our mouth is,” he said. (PNA)