The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) under Chairman Butch Ramirez saw national athletes getting unprecedented support from the government agency. National Sports Associations (NSAs) that used to bully athletes into submissions in previous administrations were forced to toe the line when the PSC refused to play their political mind games.
That was possible because of Ramirez’s relationship with Digong (former President Rodrigo Roa Duterte). He, together with Charles Maxey, served as part of Digong’s advance party during his political campaign and both of them had access to the president.
That wasn’t the case in previous administrations when it was then Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Peping Cojuangco who had the president’s ear and made the recommendations on who should be in charge of the PSC. That was the primary reason the PSC had a hands-off approach when it came to disputes involving an NSA and its athletes.
That wasn’t the case under Ramirez. Whenever there was infighting in an NSA, the PSC would just give the financial support directly to the athletes, bypassing troublesome officials. The NSA officials could do nothing. They couldn’t run to the POC president, who, in turn, would run to the president so he, or in one case, she could make the PSC chair toe the NSAs’ line.
Take the case of Hidilyn Diaz; the weightlifting NSA figured in infighting with two groups claiming legitimacy. Before, it would have meant members of the weightlifting national team won’t get any allowance from the PSC until the question of which group was the legitimate NSA had been resolved.
Ramirez ignored that and simply provided Diaz with millions directly in financial support. We all know what happened after that.
Again, the then PSC chair was able to do that because he knew the NSAs and the POC couldn’t muscle him out of the PSC.
Will the same hold true for newly appointed PSC chair Noli Eala? I’ve followed the commish, from his days as a commentator and his time as the PBA commissioner and I wish him well. When I learned of his appointment, I thought that he was a perfect choice.
However, whether he enjoys success as Ramirez did will depend on his relationship with the president. Will someone from the POC, down the road, think that Eala isn’t playing the NSAs’ game and prod BBM to replace him?
Or will he, like Ramirez before him, be left alone to run the PSC as he sees fit?
We will know the answers if Eala continues Ramirez’s practice of bypassing troublesome NSAs and sending support directly to athletes.