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Onyok Velasco still has not received his silver medal bonus 20 years after Atlanta
by rick olivares pic from ramon aboitiz foundation
MANILA, Philippines – Among those who keenly followed the competition of the Philippine contingent to the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil is Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco.
As a former Olympian who bagged silver at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games, Velasco re-lives his stint over and over through the new athletes who don the national colors every 4 years.
“Naintindihan ko yung hirap at sakripisyo na dinanas nilang lahat,” he says. “Nauunawaan ko yung pagiging sobrang excited nila. Kasama na rin yung hirap at pagod.”
(“I can understand the hardship and sacrifices made by our national athletes. I understand too the excitement that they feel. The same with their tiredness from the pressure of competition.)
When weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, in her third and last Olympics, won a silver medal from the 53 kg event, breaking a 20-year medal drought by the country, Velasco rejoiced and celebrated. “Hindi ba nakakatuwa? Ibang klase kasi paglumalaban ka para sa bayan. Nauunawaan ko yung sigla kasi uhaw tayo sa medalya. Hindi naman tayo parang ibang bansa na malaki kung humakot ng medalya.”
(Isn’t it wonderful? There’s a different feeling when you compete for the country. I can understand the joy we feel when we win a medal, any medal since we are thirsty for this. We aren’t a big country that hauls home medals by the dozen every Olympics.)
When reports emerged about the prizes and incentives that awaited Diaz upon her return, Velasco couldn’t help but think back to what he was promised but did not receive.
“Meron akong natanggap ng P750,000 pero meron din silang pinasa na bill na meron matatanggap ng addition P2.5 million,” related Velasco after his triumphant return from Atlanta. “Si dating House Speaker Joe Devencia sinabi sa akin na okay na ‘to. Sa senado na lang. Kaso ang nagyari ay nagkagulo sa mga liderato ng senado. Pinalitan ni Ernesto Maceda is Neptali Gonzales bilang leader. Nung makausap ko si Senator Maceda nung buhay pa siya, sabi niya nawala yung mga papeles.”
(I received an initial P750,000 from the government but they also passed a bill where I was to receive P2.5 million. Former House Speaker Joe Devencia assured me of this and said that it just needs re-affirming from the Senate. The problem is the Senate underwent a change in leadership from Neptali Gonzales to [the now late] Ernesto Maceda. When I spoke to Maceda, he said that the paperwork got lost.)
Velasco received an additional P1.2 million from the Republic Act No. 9064 or the Sports Benefits and Incentives Act that was passed during the time of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo but Velasco also wanted what was originally promised of him. “Wala naman tayong problema pero mahirap yung nangako tapos wala. Para tayong pinaasa. Siyempre meron tayong mga plano tulad magtayo ng boxing gym at mag-train ng mga bagong fighter.”
(I have no problems with not receiving anything. But when something is promised, I expect them to make good on that. It’s difficult because I feel that I was led on to believe I would receive something. I was planning on using that to open and gym and help train our boxers.)
Velasco also admitted to speaking to Senator Manny Pacquiao, chairman of the Senate sports committee, about this. Pacquiao said at a Senate hearing this week he will conduct an inquiry into the government’s failure to give incentives to winning athletes as mandated by law.
“Hintayin natin kung ano mangyari,” Velasco said with some hope in his voice. (Let’s see what happens this time around).