Will President Duterte be active in sports?


I hope so. I think so. While the realm of sports would not even land in the Top 40 urgent things to do for our nation’s new leader, sport is important. It motivates a nation. It inspires us. It moves us — just like the Olympic motto — to go higher, faster, stronger. Are we going to witness a sports boom with the new administration?

“Mayor Duterte has always been a supporter of sports,” said his spokesman Pete Laviña. “You can expect him to be behind our athletes and their needs.”

The planet’s biggest sporting event arrives just a few months after Pres. Duterte moves to Malacañang. It’s the Rio Olympics and we hope to send a sizable contingent to Brazil.

One man that is crucial for Phil. sports is one of Duterte’s closest allies. He’s William “Butch” Ramirez. Does the name sound familiar? If you’ve followed the back sports pages, you’ve read his name before. He’s the former chairman of the nation’s highest sporting body: the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC). From 2005 to 2009, under Pres. GMA, the tall and big man from Mindanao lorded over Phil. sports.

Ramirez hails from Davao and was instrumental in developing and uplifting sports in the city where Duterte stood as mayor for 22 years. In the recent elections, Ramirez was a key figure in the campaign of president-elect Digong.

Fellow writer and good friend Bill Velasco published a thorough article yesterday in the Phil. Star (“Strong sports under Duterte”). Bill expressed optimism with the new leadership.

“Duterte’s team alone is bursting with sportsmen.” wrote Bill. Apart from Butch Ramirez, he cited the former North Cotabato governor and boxing promoter Manny Piñol as one of those sports enthusiasts who backed Duterte.

“Other sportsmen with a range as diverse as a former chief executive, golf patrons, all the way down to past Ateneo Blue Eagles like Jobe Nkemakolam (a Duterte congressional candidate) each contributed mightily to the campaign in various capacities,” added Mr. Velasco. “And of course, Duterte’s running mate, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano is well known as a basketball enthusiast, and has supported other sports such as arnis at various stages of his political career. As you can see, his government will be loaded with heavy hitters from all fields of sports.”

In the legislative side, there are plenty who play and promote sports.

“At least six of the 12 incoming senators have a strong sports bent,” wrote Bill Velasco. He named Dick Gordon, who was a cheerleader in college and who promoted the idea of sports tourism when he was tourism head.

“Finishing sixth in the voting just behind Gordon is arnis patron Miguel Zubiri,” said Velasco. “Zubiri spent nine years as a congressman and senator refining and pushing the Arnis Law which was enacted by Pres. Gloria Arroyo at the end of 2010. The law rightfully made arnis the official sport and martial art of the country, and required that it be taught in all schools nationwide. One provision even mandates the changing of the PSC logo to symbolize arnis.”

Joel Villanueva was cited as being a former basketball player for UST. And, in congress, one of the key Party List winners was 1PACMAN. It is headed by Mikee Romero, the 45-year-old owner of the GlobalPort Batang Pier PBA team. Romero himself is a champion polo player.

And, of course, the most well-known Pinoy of them all, Manny Pacquiao. Now that he’s in the 24-person team of senators, expect him to stand out by focusing on sports. 

Back to the man at the very top — Pres. Digong — in an interview last February (by Snow Badua of Spin.ph), he bared a radical and consequential idea: “I-se-separate ko ‘yan. Parang dati na Department of Education, Culture and Sports, pero I am inclined to create another authority. I want sports and sports only sa opisina na yun.”

Department of Sports? Yes. Hopefully.

“Sports is something that will build the muscle of the nation,” he added. “Sports (instills) discipline. It’s part of growing a paradigm for young women or real men.”

John Pages

By John Pages

I've been a sports columnist since 1994. First, in The Freeman newspaper under "Tennis Is My Game." Then, starting in 2003, with Sun.Star Cebu under the name "Match Point." Happy reading!

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