PHILIPPINE Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) president Philip Ella Juico is on the defensive over criticism the athletics team turned to Fil-foreign players to jack up its gold-medal count in the 28th Southeast Asian Games.
The athletics team wound up with five gold medals from the Singapore showcase, with four coming Fil-American athletes led by Eric Cray and Karla Richardson who completed the Philippines' first ever sprint double.
Cray also ruled the 400m hurdles in record time while Caleb Stuart ruled the hammer throw event, with Christopher Ulboc emerging as athletics' lone homegrown gold medallist following his victory in the 3,000m steeplechase.
No wonder the Patafa has come under fire from critics who claim officials turned to athletes raised and trained overseas to mask their lack of programs for homegrown athletes.
Juico, however, took exception to the criticisms, saying Fil-Americans are, in the end, still Filipinos.
“We have 10 million Filipinos around the world. We are sharing our human resources with the international community. When they are there, they inter-marry with locals and beget Filipino children who are half Filipino, half foreign. If we can use half foreign Filipinos for scientists, teachers, or engineers, why not use them for sports? Pilipino ‘yan eh,” said Juico.
“Why all of a sudden discriminating and frowning on this? Pilipino pa rin ‘yan,” the former Philippine Sports Commission chairman added.
Juico said the only difference is that Fil-foreign athletes are based outside the Philippines by force of circumstances, and should not be stripped of their privilege to represent the country in international competitions.
“Of course, we prefer homegrown talents but it’s not their fault that they were born there. Cray was born in Olongapo and he was brought by force of circumstances and by destiny to Texas. Ano pa ‘yung magagawa natin?”
Despite the criticism, Juico said they intend to recruit more Fil-Americans to beef up the athletics team.
“Why not? If basketball can do it, if football can do it, if it’s not bad, why should it be bad for track and field and other sports? Basta may Filipino blood,” said Juico.