We win as one over corruption and ineptitude

Published December 7, 2019, 12:03 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat



Tonyo Cruz
Tonyo Cruz

If Filipinos would have their way, we would have adequate taxpayer money going directly to Filipino athletes, apart from giving them monetary and other material rewards for their outstanding performance in the ongoing 2019 Southeast Asian Games.

We should no longer accept any excuse from government about supposedly not having enough money for sports. At least P6-billion was allotted and spent, and most of the amount went directly to Big Businesses in construction, hotels, restaurants, transport, events planning, and marketing.

If government can give that amount to Big Businesses, we should demand that it give athletes everything they need to train adequately, to live decently, to compete, and to win.

In the ongoing games, our athletes have again shown to the nation and to the world that they can be the best and many have been confirmed to be best. They emerged as medal winners and new idols in the eyes of the young.

Carlos Yulo, Hidilyn Diaz, Agatha Wong, Margielyn Didal, Crisamuel Delfin, Monica Torres, Kristel Macrohon, and many others have become sports superstars. They lead a new generation of Filipino sports champions. They continue the glorious tradition of the Filipino legends who carried the Southeast Asian Games Federation Flag at the start of the games.

Everyone wants to support our athletes beyond the SEA Games and beyond cheering loudly until we lose our voices. We want them to be trained under the best coaches and with the best possible facilities, and live a lifestyle befitting national athletes. We don’t want to see them begging for the charity of billionaires, or to fall prey to the corruption, favoritism, and nepotism that afflict national sports associations.

Is it too much for the public to demand that our athletes be provided free use of all taxpayer-funded sports facilities, starting with the New Clark City Stadium and the refurbished Rizal Memorial Sports Complex? This early, we should demand that athletes get the support they need, from the state to which we pay taxes partly to support them and their drive for excellence.

Our legends Rafael Nepomuceno, Lydia de Vega, Efren “Bata” Reyes, Bong Coo, Akiko Thompson, Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco, Eric Buhain, and Alvin Patrimonio deserve not just our adulation. The government should make sure that they and other veteran national athletes can look forward to comfortable retirement — which they have earned and with thanks from a grateful nation.

It is easy nowadays to fall prey to a sham type of nationalism that obliges everyone to just stay silent over SEA Games scandals. They mistakenly and maliciously pit athletes against fellow Filipinos denouncing corruption and ineptitude. The thing is, if there’s anything that unites athletes and the people, it is the battle against corruption and ineptitude. Athletes have to endure the domination of the corrupt and the inept in their sports and also in the politics of their country.

And if there is any crab mentality in display nowadays, it is in the traditional politicians and crooks who portray themselves as the best, even above or ahead of the medal-winning athletes of the Philippines and the rest of Southeast Asia. They even awarded themselves a shambolic trophy which, to many folks, actually means the “best in corruption and ineptitude.”

The corrupt and the inept shamelessly hide their corruption and ineptitude behind our bemedalled athletes. These crooks have a lot to account for — the building of an athletes’ village while at the same time booking scores of hotels around Metro Manila, multiplying the expenses for accommodation and giving handsome profits to their chosen Big Business partners; the multi-billion-peso New Clark City stadium only to be used rarely in the games; the displacement and expulsion of Aeta communities in Capas town in Tarlac; the substandard and ugly $1-million cauldron said to be mislabeled as a creation of a national artist; the choice of multiple venues to give maximum profits again to private owners; and the long string of mishaps and gaffes leading to the games.

Apologists of the corrupt and the inept would find it impossible to disinform away the fact that we condemn corruption and ineptitude because that’s also a form of support for athletes. Corruption and ineptitude are a disservice to athletes and to sports. More money for the corrupt and the inept means less money for athletes and sports.

Despite state neglect and pernicious patronage afflicting national sports associations, many Filipinos have become global and Asian sports superstars. It is kind of tragic and insulting to athletes that nowadays some quarters would like athletes and the rest of us to believe that corruption, tyranny, and ineptitude are values crucial to sports and society. And that athletes tolerate or embrace these values that are transparently inimical or opposed to sports.

The refusal to accept criticism, calling criticism unpatriotic, and tolerating corruption and ineptitude — these are incompatible with sports. Athletes are not stupid. They know it too because they extol fair play, respect, merit, sportsmanship, and professionalism. Their brand of patriotism is not partisan.

If we really support our athletes, we would demand an end to state abandonment and neglect of sports. Instead, we would demand a greater budget allocation for the training and development of athletes, and the building of more public sports venues around the country. We would also demand a comfortable retirement plan for our veteran national athletes.

If we really support our athletes, we would demand the investigation of business contracts signed in the name of athletes and of sports, the profits raked in by Big Businesses, and the involvement of traditional politicians known more for stealing gold than winning gold medals.

And if we really value our athletes, we would learn from their determination, focus, energy, and patriotism which we need to take on and prevail over the corrupt and the inept, whether in sports or in society.