A bonus for Filipino national athletes, who won medals in the 31st Southeast Asian Games, was outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte’s way of saying thanks.
The surprise payout matched the incentives that the Philippine Sports Commission gave out on Tuesday evening to the deserving medallists of the biennial meet.
“Merong medalya or wala, natutuwa ako. Bago ako umalis, maraming salamat po,” said Duterte as he addressed the athletes who came to meet him at the Rizal Ceremonial Hall of the Malacang Palace.
Due to the big turnout of athletes, Duterte handed out the bonuses in three parts to the medal winners, with snookers’ champion Rubilen Amit representing the 52 gold medallists, fencer Nathaniel Perez receiving for the 70 silver medallists and woodpusher Janelle Mae Frayna getting the incentives on behalf of the 105 bronze medallists.
A check worth P15.6 million for the gold winners, another one amounting to P10.5 million for the silver achievers and P7.5 million for the bronze medalists were turned over in simple and brief ceremonies that followed.
“Nagulat kami. It was very inspiring. The president has a soft heart for the athletes,” said Philippine Sports Commission chairman William Ramirez and after the athletes present were also conferred the “Order of Lapu Lapu” honors, and with the rank of Kamagi.
The amount that the medalists received was in accordance with Republic Act 10699, known as the National Athletes and Coaches Incentives law.
The distribution of cash rewards coming from the PSC and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation then followed in a separate room.
This put the total cash bonanza given to P66.320 million when the rites ended.
Philippine Oympic Committee president and outgoing Cavite (District 8) Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino, who earlier took his oath of office as Tagaytay City Mayor before the president, said Duterte’s gesture was quite moving.
“I am very surprised by this. Kung ano ang binigay ng PSC, iyun din ang binigay niya. This is very good for the athletes. This is the first time that this has happened,” said Tolentino.
Tolentino said the POC will be ready to give out their set of incentives to the national athletes within the week.
Sports officials noted that the 52-70-105 gold-silver-bronze medal haul of the Philippines was the best output of a Filipino delegation in a SEA Games event that is not hosted by the country.
Gymnastics Association of the Philippines president Cynthia received the bonuses of Carlos Yulo and Aleah Finnegan, who are out of the country.
Billiards’ legend Efren “Bata” Reyes, who took the bronze medal in the men’s 1-cushion carom singles, was also among the awardees.
Besides bonuses, the President also awarded the Order of Lapu-Lapu with the rank of Kamagi to some of the medalists who were not recipients of the citation during the incentives ceremony held at the Palace also presided by Duterte for the country’s medalists in the 30th SEA Games in 2019.