SINGAPORE – A top official of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) rued Malacanang's lack of ‘non-material support’ to the Philippine delegation not only in the ongoing 28th Southeast Asian Games but in previous major international events as well.
POC first vice president Joey Romasanta on Sunday disclosed the country’s Olympic body had for several times in the past sent invitations to the country’s leaders to attend sendoff ceremonies for overseas-bound Filipino athletes.
Except for one occasion when Sec. Jose Rene Almendras attended a sendoff event prior to last year’s Asian Games, Romasanta said the invitations have been snubbed by Malacanang.
Romasanta said the presence of a top Malacañang official, especially the President, would have been a source of motivation for the athletes.
President Aquino has not attended any sendoff parties for a Philippine delegation since assuming office in 2010, nor did he receive Filipino athletes at Malacanang before or after international competitions.
Incidentally, President Aquino is the nephew of POC president Jose ‘Peping’ Cojuangco. The two are believed to be not in good terms.
“The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), they are doing it on their own. But in terms of total support, parang naiiwanan mag-isa ang PSC,” said Romasanta.
“What is very glaring in terms of non-material support is the fact that Philippine delegations going to the SEA Games, Asian Games, not once were they received by the Palace. Not even a sendoff or when they come back,” he added.
The statement of the POC official came amid the struggle of Team Philippines to match the 29-gold medal haul it won in the biennial meet two years ago in Myanmar despite sending an even bigger number of athletes this year.
“Hindi naman sa ayaw natin kay Presidente but then again, it could have been a big boost and motivation had the President been there. This is the last event (of his administration),” said Romasanta.
Romasanta recalled the time when he accompanied Filipino athletes in Malacanang shortly after the 1987 SEA Games in Jakarta. He was then chief of ‘Project Gintong Alay,’ then the government's sports arm.
“I made a mistake of saying, ‘Madam President, I present to you our athletes and we’d like to send to you their modest achievements.’ I made a mistake of using the word modest. Pinagalitan niya ako in front of everybody. Sabi niya, ‘I didn’t like what Mr. Romasanta said, referring to your achievements as modest.’
"The following day, gulpi ako sa dyaryo. “But that was how she was and how she felt,” said Romasanta, also president of the Larong Volleyball ng Pilipinas Inc. (LVPI).
Romasanta said he understands the Palace may also have other important national matters to take care off.
“But then again, sports is a priority. It’s always been, it’s part of the Philippine constitution," he said. “It pains me to imagine the Philippine delegation was never received by Malacañang.”