THE recent string of successes by Pinoy athletes in the world stage has led to an interesting discussion--for me, at least--of the same athletes doing the Duterte salute whenever they pay a courtesy call on the President. For some, the athletes demean themselves by associating with a divisive symbol.
So, should athletes do the Duterte salute when they pay a courtesy visit? Well, for me, it’s simple. By all means, do so if it means getting access to more funds and support. If you have cops, soldiers, prosecutors and other officials who are supposed to be non-partisan making partisan symbol every time there’s a camera around, the athletes can certainly do so.
There used to be a time when posing for a picture with the President, or his supporters, didn’t involve a partisan symbol, but we seem to have passed through a wormhole and traveled to a different era.
I admit I used to do that, being one of the 16 million. I now cringe remembering how in a press conference, all the sportswriters did the fist together with the officials of the Philippine Sports Commission. Sometimes, I wonder what the reaction would have been had a press gathering in 2010 ended with all the mediamen posing with the Laban sign.
I no longer do that, but I can’t blame the athletes who do it when they meet the President. That also doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve our support. When they compete, they compete for the flag, not for a certain sector.
But what happens if athletes do it in an awarding ceremony in the Southeast Asian Games? God I hope it doesn’t happen, and I hope the officials of both the PSC and the Philippine Olympic Committee won’t put our athletes in such an awkward spot by sporting the fist when they pose with the medals. The International Olympic Committee abhors any political stunt during medal ceremonies and in the past, has censured athletes who did so.
It would be admirable--but still wrong--if a political statement was about a protest, but there’s nothing protest-related with the fist. So I hope there won’t be such incidents when the Filipino athletes receive their medals in the SEA Games next month.
Speaking of the SEA Games, it seems we are playing catch-up in our preparations and all the blame lies on what the Duterte fist symbolizes, politics and partisanship.
The national budget for this year--which includes funds for the SEA Games hosting--was only signed in April, giving organizers less than seven months to prepare. The original budget was also slashed and even before that, there was infighting among the PSC and POC officials as to who should control the funds. Heck, in April there were even suggestions to scrap the hosting altogether.
That’s shades of 2005, the last time we hosted the SEA Games. Months before that, as the then President apologized for an ill-advised phone call, organizers had to fight rumors about the scrapping.
The only thing that happened then that I want to happen this year is that despite all the issues, the whole country rallied behind Team Philippines and we won the overall title.