5 Stars for GAB and the PSC

With a change of administration just days away, it’s time to say goodbye to two of my favorite government officials in the Duterte Administration—Games and Amusements Board (GAB) chairman Baham Mitra and Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman William Ramirez.

When I first heard of Baham Mitra taking over GAB six years ago, I didn’t pay much attention. I thought that, perhaps, President Duterte had a political debt to pay in Palawan, hence Mitra’s appointment.

NO REST TILL JUNE 30. GAB chairman Baham Mitra with his latest project, providing ambulances services for fighters. (PHOTO GRABBED FROM GAB’S FB PAGE)

You see, in 2016, after more than 15 years in sportswriting, I’ve long thought of GAB as the red light district in government agencies. A useless agency that you only hear in the news when a boxer dies, with the chairman usually making a made-for-TV statement.

I thought Chairman Mitra would be one of those kinds of chairmen. Then, a few weeks into his term, he met local stakeholders. I thought, “Hmm, wait a minute.” Then months later, he busted a scam where as many as 150 boxers used fake magnetic resonance imaging results.

Those who know me, know what I personally think of the “Change is Coming” line of the president. But six years later, change has indeed come for GAB.

What I like about Sir Baham is that he did his duty sans fanfare. He just did his job and thought outside the box in most instances. He made the rankings more transparent and most of his policies were preventative, not reactive.

In one of his last acts, he did something future boxers, fighters would enjoy—he provided emergency response units. Previous GAB chairmen? Heck. The only time we heard of them was when someone died or when Pinoy boxers in Australia were discovered to be human trafficking victims.

Considering that some sports like MMA and boxing expose our athletes to personal injuries, there really is a need to ensure their safety.

GAB chairman Baham Mitra

GAB, pre-Baham, was so boxing-focused that we all thought it’s an agency for boxing. Under Baham, it was different. Heck, he has done so many things that we forgot during Covid-19 pandemic. He finally defined what pro sports and amateur sports are in the country. That for me is quite a legacy.

Thank you for your service, Sir Baham.

Unlike the then new chairman of GAB, I knew the incoming PSC chairman and I knew that he was going to change how national athletes in the country were managed. You see, pre-2016, it’s usually the Philippine Olympic Committee president who recommends to the incoming president who to appoint as PSC chairman.

That’s why we had PSC chairmen who were mostly beholden to the POC or the National Sports Association (NSA)presidents. Not this time around. It was athletes’ first and foremost. Cebuana marathoner Mary Joy Tabal got the first taste of that when the PSC batted for her inclusion in the Rio Olympics.

The rest of the national athletes benefited when their monthly allowances were raised twice.

They’ve learned also, under this Ramirez-led PSC, that they need not fear their NSA presidents and their spots in the national team won’t be taken away from them.

Pre-2016, in case of infighting in an NSA, the PSC would wait for it to be resolved before extending help. Ramirez taught the overstaying NSA heads a lesson by bypassing them and offering support directly to the athletes.

That we’ve had record performances in the Southeast Asian Games and the Olympics is the result of that. And for that, thank you for your service PSC chair and the rest of your PSC board.

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