Pacquiao wants end to corruption, disunity in PH sports
If the country wants that elusive Olympic gold, sports officials must get their acts together.
World boxing champ and now Senator Manny Pacquiao on Tuesday took sports officials to task in getting rid of corruption and forging unity within the sports officialdom, citing his first-hand knowledge about the many ills in the sector as a longtime athlete.
Pacquiao, chair of the Senate committee on sports freshly split from games and amusement, minced no words in demanding better sports governance for the country, venting frustration at how poor leadership has delayed the country’s long-stalled bid for a first-place finish in the quadrennial games.
“We will work to reach that. I hope we eventually get the gold. That’s our goal,” Pacquiao told a meeting that gathered representatives from the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) and national sports associations at the Senate Tuesday afternoon.
“I want to see honest leadership, service that will implement [programs] for our athletes, because it is very important. They are the face of our country. Whatever results they get [in sports competitions overseas] reflects on us,” he said.
A modest Philippine contingent of 13 athletes are representing the country in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, carrying the flag in the fields of table tennis, golf, track and field, women’s marathon, swimming, boxing, weightlifting, taekwondo and judo.
Last week, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz ended the country’s 20-year Olympic medal drought, winning silver in the women’s 53-kg weightlifting competition. She was the first Filipino to make a podium finish since boxer Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco won a silver medal in 1996.
“I started boxing when I was 10 or 11. Until now I know what should be done and what shouldn’t be done in developing an athlete. We should already have a program for kids to build them up,” said Pacquiao, who grew up in poverty but turned his and his family’s life around through boxing.
“Pagdating ng panahon, mamumulot na lang tayo ng medalya (The time will come when we will just be picking up medals),” Pacquiao said.
Among sports where Filipinos could score medals include boxing, weightlifting, cycling, archery, table tennis, long-distance running, and martial arts, said PSC Chair William Ramirez on Pacquiao’s questioning.
“We can do it there…in sports where height is not an issue,” he said.
During the meeting, Pacquiao confronted the PSC chair about corruption within his agency, to which the official replied: “There’s no perfect organization.”
He said changes have been made at the commission, including ensuring the transparency of biddings through the presence of witnesses such as the sports writers and representatives of the Commission on Audit.
“There’s no agency that is completely free from corruption, but we leave it to the past. Now, we make sure everything is transparent,” said Ramirez.
Pacquiao then repeated his directive to the official.
“I heard corruption in the PSC, and I want you to address that. I am just reminding you because this administration really does not want corruption. We only want public service,” he said.
He also noted the apparent disunity between the PSC and the POC. The PSC is the agency that takes care of funding athletes and their development, while the POC selects athletes to be sent to international competitions, said POC Chair Tomas Carrasco Jr.
“In the biblical way, if a house is divided within itself, it can’t stand,” said Pacquiao, also a Christian preacher.
“I think this is the time to reconcile with each other, work together to produce good athletes,” he said.
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