PH aims for SEAG success

Published November 30, 2019, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Nick Giongco

The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) is a government arm that functions almost 24/7.

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Butch Ramirez

Its chairman, William “Butch” Ramirez, spends the weekend — when high-ranking officials are given the opportunity to loosen their ties — as if it is a regular workday in the PSC at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex.

During one recent Saturday afternoon at the Philsports in Pasig, Ramirez had to welcome group of young athletes so he could personally hear their plight.

“These athletes have problems, many concerns and this is the place where they feel comfortable expressing their feelings,” said Ramirez, who resides in one of the dormitories at the Pasig complex.

An appointee of Malacañang, the Davao City-bred Ramirez, 69, says his decision to stay at Philsports has allowed him to remain in touch with the athletes.

“In the mornings, I make it a point to go around and see if everything is in order,” said Ramirez, stressing that living among them enables him to get the pulse of the athletes.

So, on this particular sunny afternoon a few weeks ago, Ramirez had to forego plans of leaving the Philsports and have some down time elsewhere.

Instead of going on vacation-mode even for a day, Ramirez opted to remain on work-mode.

“The heart and soul of Philippine sports is the athletes,” said Ramirez.

It is for this reason that Ramirez refuses to lower his guard.

“My instruction from upstairs is to look after the welfare of the athletes.”

Upstairs refers to the man calling the shots at Malacanang — President Duterte — who named him PSC chairman in 2016.

The position is nothing new to Ramirez as he had once assumed the same role more than a decade ago before being recalled following the 2008 Olympics.

At first, Ramirez was reluctant to return but was eventually convinced when Duterte himself urged him to reconsider.

It was there and then that Ramirez realized he had no choice but to follow.

“I have been here before so I knew what had to be done.”

Guided by the past, Ramirez zeroed in on the athletes’ concerns and patiently listened to their grievances, their needs.

Ramirez feels the PSC is fulfilling its mantra and in the run-up to the 30th Southeast Asian Games, the PSC is rallying behind the athletes and working closely with the Philippine SEAG Organizing Committee (Phisgoc) in assuring that the event proceeds smoothly.

To ensure that the athletes get what they deserve, the PSC ventured into the rehabilitation of its facilities.

And for the first time in its close to 30-year history, the PSC released ₱1 billion for the training and overseas exposure of the SEAG-bound bets to increase the country’s chances of winning the overall crown.

Still, Ramirez bares the PSC had been put in a bind many times over as its roles in staging the SEAG ran along unparallel lines with that of Phisgoc and the Philippine Olympic Committee.

But before things got out of hand, a tripartite agreement was forged, putting the PSC in a support role to the Phisgoc and its chairman, now House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.

The POC, led by Tagaytay Rep. Bambol Tolentino, also has a limited role in running the SEAG, but is vital in making the hosting a success.

Interestingly, the hosting of the 30th SEAG started off on the wrong foot.

When Brunei withdrew from hosting, Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, then the POC president, offered to step in and become the alternate venue.

That time, the Marawi siege was a pressing matter and it took several influential officials to find a solution to the problem with now Sen. Bong Go, then the Special Assistant to the President, and Sen. Migs Zubiri joining hands.

But before the transfer of hosting rights could be formalized, the POC underwent a massive change in leadership when boxing’s Ricky Vargas assumed the presidency during a court-ordered elections in 2018.

Vargas stepped down, however, in just over a year owing to the pressure of work.

Tolentino, who heads cycling, then took over when he won another special elections that the International Olympic Committee had ordered.

Ramirez initially declined then POC president Vargas’ offer to name him SEAG Chief of Mission.

But after a crucial meeting at Malacañang, Ramirez had a change of heart. And it was in that position that he he helped muster support for the SEAG hosting when Tolentino took over the POC helm.

“In the spirit of unity and to be of help (I decided to assume the role of SEAG CDM) since I will have an advantage being the chairman of the PSC,” said Ramirez.

“The interest of the country is at stake here, and as the SEAG slogan declares, ‘We win as one.’”