IT took a silver medal win by woman weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz for the country to know the plight of our athletes, regardless of whether or not they have brought pride and honor to the country by bringing home much-coveted medals.
Imagine, for the first time after becoming a silver medalist in 1996, Negros Occidental-born Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco finally mustered enough guts to expose the kind of shabby treatment he had been going through as one government changed hands with another for the past two decades, no less. Velasco got silver in the 48 kg. or light flyweight boxing category in the 1996 Summer Games held in Atlanta, Georgia.
I still remember how Velasco was virtually hailed by the entire nation upon his return and how he was heaped with praises and promised a windfall of rewards and incentives by various sectors, both from government and private. His name had at that time, become a household word and hell, I can’t even remember how many politicians jumped on the bandwagon, considering how popular Velasco was at that time. His popularity in fact paved the way for a showbiz stint, albeit shortlived.
This is why it is but disheartening to learn that up to now, Velasco is yet to receive what was promised him in 1996. Fortunately for him, the triumph of Diaz also helped reveal that he (Velasco), after all these years, is still actually, tirelessly and hopelessly ‘chasing’ the measly P2.5 million and other incentives reportedly promised him for winning silver then.
Velasco did not deserve such a demeaning treatment. Take note that the Olympics subsequently held in Sydney, Athens, Beijing and London yielded no medals for the Philipppines and that in his batch, it was only he who was able to bring home a medal.
Indeed, a lot of things already happened and passed Velasco by. This includes the Aquino administration signing an expanded version of Republic Act 9064 or An Act Granting Cash and Other Non-monetary Benefits and Incentives to National Athletes, Coaches and Trainers, where amendments were introduced to the Sports Bonus Act of 2001 passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Cash windfalls are provided for in the amended act, for athletes who will win medals not only in the Olympiad but also in other events like the Asiad and the SEA Games.
Under the amended Act, an athlete who gets Asiad gold will receive P2 million; silver, P1 million and bronze, P400,000. For SEA Games medalists, a gold medalist gets P300,000; silver, P150,000 and bronze P60,000. In the case of Olympics, a gold medal is worth P10 million in cash incentives, a silver medal P5 million and a bronze P2 million.
Sadly, as of late, I read somewhere that Senator Ralph Recto had stated that the Senate would look into the matter, adding that the current law no longer applies to Velasco’s case and that when he won, the reward for a silver medalist had not been pegged at P5 million yet.
RA 9064, he pointed out, was passed into law in 2001, under which, P2.5 million had been allotted for a silver medalist. Since Velasco won in 1996, he was to get only half of the amount. Now since he had been given a one-time cash incentive amounting to P750,000, he can now only claim P500,000.
Now, isn’t this rubbing salt into the wound?
What happened to Velasco should never happen to anyone else. After all, how many of us has brought such huge honor and pride to the country?
Lots of questions also need to be settled. Why and how did this happen to Velasco? Did sports officials do anything to at least assist Velasco in making his claim? If Velasco were in the league of better off athletes like Mikee Co-
juangco and Ed Buhain, would he have gotten the shabby treatment? Oh well….
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