By Mario Casayuran
Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III commented Tuesday on Filipino athletes warming up for the November 30 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games that they are financially supported by the national government, unlike during his time as a member of the Philippine team nearly 50 years ago when athletes depended on their own National Sports Associations (NSAs).
Sotto recalled having competed in the SEA Games in the late ‘70s when they harvested medals without any financial support from the Philippine government.
“There were no appropriations in the General Appropriations Act (GAA or national budget). Kami puro sari-sariling NSAs, kanya-kanyang NSAs ang gumastos. So, binigyan mo ng P6 billion, aba dapat magpasalamat sila, sapagkat kami nung araw, hindi nabibigyan ng ganun,” he pointed out. (We were not financially aided by the national government through the GAA. We depended on our NSAs.
As they are now given P6 billion, they should be thankful. During our time, we did not get such a deal.)
He said that he was part of an eight-man bowling team in eight events in the 1977 SEA Games.
“We won seven golds and one silver. Winipe-out namin ang mga kalaban. Southeast Asian Games yun. Walang government funding, Yung aming NSAs lang ang gumagastos. Dapat ganun,” he told Senate reporters before Tuesday’s plenary session, (We wiped the competition. Our NSAs spent for us and that should be the case.)
In a related development, Sotto and Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon defended the Senate from attacks from the House of Representatives (HOR) blaming it for reducing the funds for the 2019 SEA Games and causing the delay in the passage of the 2019 GAA.
Both Senate leaders said that any blame for these two issues should be tossed to the Lower House which insisted that it include more than P90 billion in pork barrel in the 2019 budget.
Because of the rigid anti-pork barrel stance of senators led by Sotto and Drilon, President Rodrigo Duterte vetoed the pork barrel appropriation, much to the chagrin of members of the HOR.
Asked if he does not agree with the statement of House Speaker Alan Peter S. Cayetano that it was Drilon who moved the budget of the SEA Games to the Philippine Sports Commission and cut it by a third, Sotto replied: “That is a different story, that is not part of the delay of the budget.”