The spirit and intention of the early release of the P5 million incentive to weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz yesterday was besmirched by questions on the propriety and legality of its appropriation without the benefit a board approval by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).
Diaz, who won the silver medal in the women's 58-kg category at the Riocentro Pavilion 2 on Sunday (Monday morning in Manila), was received by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte upon her arrival in Davao on Thursday.
Mr. Duterte congratulated the 25-year old Diaz and was awarded P5 million as her incentive for her silver-medal feat in Rio de Janeiro.
The reward was mandated by Republic Act 10699, which also ensures P10 million for any Filipino to win a gold medal in the Olympics.
No Filipino has yet to win a gold in the Summer Games. Diaz's silver broke the country's long wait for an Olympic medal after boxer Mansueto 'Onyok' Velasco brought home a silver from Atlanta in 1996.
The only other Olympic silver medal won by a Filipino was courtesy of Anthony Villanueva, another boxer, in 1964. The Philippines only has won nine Olympic medals.
President Duterte, elated by Diaz's achievement, also gave her an additional P2 million incentive from the presidential fund.
But the release of the PSC's P5 million raised some questions as some officials said it was without the benefit of a PSC board approval, which a Tribune source said invites the possibility of yet another graft case against PSC Chairman William 'Butch' Ramirez.
Ramirez, according to a Tribune source, was the lone signatory in the P5-M check released to Diaz through the president.
The amount, the source said, was "advanced" by the PSC from its funds in time for President Duterte's meeting with Diaz in Davao.
Diaz's incentive was supposed to come from Pagcor, which remits part of its income to the PSC for its National Sports Development Fund, and for incentives given to the athletes.
The source said the timing of the fund's release was "perhaps meant to prop up the President's meeting with Diaz," although the source added that "the move also would invite possible court cases against the PSC Chairman."
Another source also said Ramirez may have overstepped the boundaries of his power by signing the check as Malacanang has yet to officially transmit the appointment papers of the four commissioners to make up the PSC board.
He added that it does not help that Ramirez is still facing a criminal case of graft and corruption filed by the Pagcor (Philippine Amusements and Gaming Corp.) at the Office of the Ombudsman for his direct funding assistance of more than P34 million to the Philippine Amateur Swimming Association, Inc in 2007 when Ramirez first served as PSC chief.
Also charged were former Pagcor Chairman Efraim Genuino, ex-PAGCOR President/COO Rafael "Butch" Francisco, former Directors Philip Lo, Manuel Roxas and Danilo Gozo, former Executive Vice President Rene Figueroa, ex-VP for Accounting Department Ester Hernandez, ex-VP for Corporate Communications and Services Department Edward "Dodie" King, and former AVP for Internal Audit Department Valente Custodio.
The deal involved the PSC's rental of the Trace College swimming pool for the training of the national swimmers. Trace College was owned by Genuino's family.
In an exclusive interview, Ramirez debunked these claims and said: "There's a law that makes the release of the P5-million incentive for Hidilyn legal. We released it according to what the law says and I believe the PSC Board will approve it once the Commissioners are named officially on Monday or Tuesday."
"Also, I talked to the Pagcor about the release of the incentive and I was told na 'Butch,' ikaw na muna ang mag-release nyan at ire-reimburse na lang namin'," Ramirez said.
"Gusto kasi ni Presidente (Duterte) s'ya na ang magbigay ng incentive, pero wala na s'yang panahon kasi pupunta na sya sa Jolo for an important matter," Ramirez added.
"But since walang pang board ang PSC. We did what we should do and released the funding. Mabuti na nga din lang at pinagbigyan ako ng mga bangko (Philippine National Bank and Landbank) to sign the checks, kasi kung hindi at mag-aantay pa tayo sa composition ng PSC Board, wala ding salaries ang mga PSC employees," Ramirez said.
The PSC has more than P1 billion in savings left by the previous administration of former Chairman Ricardo 'Ritchie' Garcia.
Source: Daily Tribune