Beyond rewards
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - December 16, 2019 - 12:00am

If we want victory, we must prepare for it, not pay for it. An even better way of saying it is we must “Pre-pay for it.”

The recent call to increase the “reward” for Filipino SEA Games medalists from 300K by another 100 thousand might sound like a good idea especially for those who are on the list or in line for the windfall, but it is something that needs serious reflection and evaluation for the future. In the first place, the idea of sports and amateur competition has always been about sportsmanship, placing first and getting the medals. The minute we start paying out several hundred thousand pesos or several thousand dollars US, we are actually paying for performance and that turns them into paid competitors making them pros technically. Then there is the matter of those “who also ran” or those who trained so hard, made sacrifices and tried their best but simply did not win? Are we not rubbing salt on their wounded pride and broken dreams? Why should they be excluded from the rewards and recognition?

While the idea of rewards is certainly well meaning, I have heard a number of the athletes saying words to this effect: “The reward money is a plus but it would have been better if all of it were invested or spent in supporting our training and sending us to international competition before, so we could train better and win more.” It really hits home especially when we learn that some of the athletes got more private sector support long before the 30th SEA Games were on the table. When we think about it what were the chances that the Rizal Memorial, the ULTRA, and the Athletes Village in Clark would have been renovated or built had we not ended up hosting the 30th SEA Games? Why can’t Congress make a perpetual program to insure the development, construction and maintenance of athletic facilities? Is it because our political leaders don’t really give a damn about athletic investments unless there is money to be made or political publicity to take advantage of? YES!!! This sadly is an endemic cultural defect in our society where we only fix “the house” when guests are coming and not because we want to have a nice home to live in. In terms of sports, our athletes, whether it’s PacMan or GILAS Pilipinas or Martial Arts ladies only get the government and media attention when there is a big match or we are hosting.

If Congress wants to reward our be-medalled athletes with several hundred thousand pesos each and it’s their prerogative or personal funds then go ahead. Just make sure you Johnny-come-latelies are not setting a bad precedent that could turn amateur athletes into mercenaries. If you really want to be game changers and patrons of sports, then do your homework and interview not just the new celebrity medal winners. Ask those who “also ran” what went wrong, how can we help them train and perform better? Last but not the least go back to your own constituencies and talk to your own athletes and coaches to find out what kind of facilities can be built other than basketball courts. What sports can your own people excel in? Then you can invest a little more so the so-called “Probinsyano” kids can develop a competitive spirit and skills and aspire for greater things instead of ending up using drugs and alcohol. Perhaps if Congress spent a little more money for athletic scholarships or financial support, we will have more athletes from all over the Philippines and not just from Metro Manila families that spend personal funds in pursuit of excellence not just medals.

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Last week I wrote about the fact that smuggled banned meat products have been slipping through the Bureau of Customs based on the interception made by the NMIS or National Meat Inspection Service. Well, a second interception happened two days later after the City Veterinary Office of Manila and Mayor Isko Moreno managed to catch another delivery truck smuggling banned meat products from China out of the port of Manila. The latest interception according to Mayor Isko Moreno was the result of a tip from an insider at the pier. Mayor Isko pointed out that while he and his veterinarians may have no power or authority inside the ports, once the smugglers and smuggled goods enter city streets, they are now at the mercy of Manila City hall.

Judging from how Mayor Isko Moreno put it, he was clearly insulted by the smuggling attempt and how it portrayed them as powerless or not to be feared. It also shows that in spite of all the PR and praise release concerning the Bureau of Customs, smuggling continues. It is bad enough that banned meat products that could be tainted with ASF or African Swine Fever continues to land and slip through the port of Manila, but what about drugs and other contraband? Smuggling could be the only reason why in spite of the deadly drug war in the Philippines, the supply and the volume of confiscated drugs continue to inexplicably flow. While we want to support the leadership at the BOC, we in media cannot ignore the arrests and interception of smuggled banned products. Either the BOC Commissioner track down the culprits and facilitators inside the ports, or the entire bureau will have to pay the price of once again being under the microscope of public scrutiny. If smugglers can do their unpatriotic acts of endangering the hog raising industry with impunity, then the BOC Commissioner should deal with them with extreme prejudice because they are enemies of the republic.

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