By Jeanne Michael Penaranda
MANILA – After the Philippine team returned from Tokyo with its best Olympic finish with four medals, including the country’s first gold, President Rodrigo Duterte expressed confidence that Filipino athletes will get better and stronger in securing “more victories” in the future.
Duterte made this remark as he led the awarding of medals and incentives honoring the Filipino Olympians, including the country’s first ever Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz, at the Rizal Hall in Malacañan Palace, for bringing pride to the country and for uplifting the spirit of Filipinos amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
Duterte, assisted by officials, handed to gold medalist weightlifter Diaz the Presidential Medal of Merit, P10 million as mandated by law, P5 million for breaking the Olympic record from PSC and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor), an additional P3 million from the Office of the President (OP), and a certificated for house and lot in Zamboanga City.
Silver medalists Nesthy Petecio (women’s boxing) and Carlos Paalam (men’s boxing) and bronze medalist Eumir Marcial (men’s boxing) were awarded the Order of Lapu-Lapu with the rank of Kamagi.
Petecio and Paalam each got P5 million as mandated by law and an additional P2 million from Duterte’s office while Marcial received P2 million as mandated by law and an additional P1 million from OP.
“I congratulate you once again for bringing pride and honor to the country and for uplifting the spirit of Filipinos amidst the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said in his speech.
“Her victory comes at a very crucial point in our country’s history when we are grappling with a pandemic and a lot of Filipinos are looking for hope as we fight this virus and cope with the difficulties it has brought,” Ang said.
Ang also gave Diaz a surprise gift – two Magnolia Chick ‘N Juicy franchises that she could put up at her new condominium in Quezon City and at her hometown in Zamboanga City.
Duterte also described as “truly inspiring” the hard work, dedication, and sportsmanship the Filipino athletes showed even amid the challenges in their training and competitions and looked forward to their further success.
“Your hard work, dedication and sportsmanship, even amidst the challenges in your training and competitions prior to the Olympics, are truly inspiring,” President Duterte said.
“I am confident that you will get better and stronger in securing more victories in the future. Your success will continue to motivate many aspiring athletes and our Filipino youth to channel their energies into sports and other productive activities keeping them away from the harmful vices,” he added.
Duterte said the strength and excellence of the country’s athletes in the international sports arena demonstrate the Filipino spirit and resilience as well as the determination to succeed.
“Our Tokyo 2020 medalists and Olympians truly embody our greatness as a people and as a nation,” he said.
Duterte thanked the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) and the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) for their “unwavering” support and strong efforts in securing that the country’s athletes are ready to compete at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
He assured that the government remains committed in providing full support to Filipino athletes.
Duterte also enjoined the POC, PSC, and other sports bodies to continue providing “much-needed” assistance to keep athletes on top of their game and help them become all-time greats.
He also congratulated Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Kazuhiko Koshikawa for the successful hosting of the 2020 Olympics and hoped that the upcoming 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo would also become a “resounding success”.
Olympian Mansueto Onyok Velasco (men’s boxing) also received P500,000 after admitting that he failed to receive all the incentives pledged to him when he won a silver medal during the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.
Other Olympians who did not win medals also received presidential citations and cash rewards worth P200,000 each from OP.
Duterte also cited the Philippine sports officials led by PSC chairman William “Butch” Ramirez and POC president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino for their contribution to the country’s successful campaign in Tokyo Olympics