Limpag: Duterte and the national team

Mike T. Limpag

THERE’S an interesting thread online where world champion gymnast and Olympian Carlos Yulo--whose online presence grew during the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games--was chided for simply answering yes to the question whether he supports President Duterte. As a national athlete, the only answer Yulo could give was yes. That’s also the default answer of the generals of the army and the police. Unless, of course, they want to be assigned to the country’s version of Siberia.

I know some would have wanted the Olympian to say no or even say that he represents the country, not an individual. But I won’t take that against Yulo, who I expect to do his calisthenics on the mat and not mentally online. You support who supports you and in the case of the national teams, they’ve enjoyed more support than ever under the current President.

And you have the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman Butch Ramirez and commissioner Charles Maxey for that. Both played a key role in Duterte’s election, but it was their role before that that helped Duterte help the national team. Ramirez was the chairman of the PSC before and knew how the power play and political infighting can put the athletes’ welfare last; Maxey was a sports editor of SunStar Davao and he knew how athletes feel when they become last.

We’ve had many talks in the past about the inefficiencies of both the PSC and the Philippine Olympic Committee.

One of the first changes, when they got their posts, was an athletes’ first policy and you can just imagine the effect that has on guys like Yulo and other elite Philippine bets, who are chasing their Olympic spots.

I remember, just months into the office, the PSC would go to the athletes directly if their NSAs (National Sports Association) or the POC would play hardball. And just recently, Duterte offered a P100 million kitty to help our Olympians prepare for the Tokyo Olympics. That has been unheard of before. So yep, expect the members of the national team to be fiercely loyal to the President who has been loyal to them.

It may not be what some want to hear but it is what it is. Though I’d be really impressed if a national athlete would dare go against the flow, I won’t take that against them. If you have pro-ballers doing the fist bump despite not needing any financial reward from the government, athletes like Yulo who enjoys tremendous government support won’t dare speak out against the government. And that’s just fine with me. It’s not their role.