After ‘defeatist’ remark, Duterte to ‘personally cheer’ for Gilas vs Italy
MANILA, Philippines — After casting doubts on Gilas Pilipinas’ chances against Italy in the 2019 Fiba World Cup, President Rodrigo Duterte will nevertheless watch the national basketball team’s opening game to show his support.
In a pre-departure briefing in Malacañang on Friday, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Meynardo Montealegre said Duterte, who is set to fly to China next week for a working visit, will “personally cheer” for Gilas Pilipinas when they take on the Italian squad on August 31.
This is despite Duterte’s earlier pronouncements that Gilas Pilipinas will surely lose against the much taller Italian team.
The Philippines is bracketed with Italy, Serbia, and Angola in Group D of the Basketball World Cup group stage.
“Ang problema ang unang kalaban natin Italy. Wala … walang laban. Walang tayo diyan. China na lang tayo magpusta,” Duterte said in a speech before Filipino-Chinese businessmen.
“Italian, ang lalaki kaya niyang mga g***** ‘yan,” he added.
But the President is confident Gilas can easily beat Angola in their matchup.
“Dito, ang sunod natin Angola. Ah ito, pwede natin ilibing nang buhay,” he said.
Chief of Presidential Protocol Robert Eric Borje, meanwhile, said Duterte may also meet the Gilas players prior to their World Cup opener.
“That’s something that we’re working on. But what’s definite is the President, of course, wants to support Team Philippines,” Borje said.
After their game against Italy, Gilas Pilipinas will face Serbia on September 2 before wrapping up the group phase against Angola on September 4.
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