MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chairman Richie Garcia on Friday disputed allegations that the government neglected the financial needs of figure skater Michael Martinez while he was preparing for the Winter Olympics.
“We have 820 athletes na inaalagaan sa PSC, so it's not logical na itong isang atleta sa Olympics hindi pa namin matulungan,” Garcia said in an interview on dzMM.
The PSC chairman said contrary to reports, Martinez didn’t travel to Sochi, Russia alone.
“Hindi ho totoo yan, we have representatives, Secretary-General Steve Hontiveros of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), we have the president of the [Philippine Skating Union] Mr. Manuel Veguillas, they also have Gina Calaguas and I was there to represent the government,” he said.
He added that they wanted to make sure that all of Martinez's needs are met.
“[I was] in the opening ceremonies to make sure yung atleta natin ay comfortable sa village, lahat ng kailangan niya nandyan. So we are well represented,” said Garcia.
He also said the PSC gave $7,200 for Martinez's training expenses. The amount was coursed through the POC, a private, non-government organization that acts as the mother group of all national sports associations in the country.
Garcia said they were not able to directly release the money to Martinez's mother, Maria Teresa, because they follow a process in releasing funds.
"Sabi ko, the process is lapitan niyo iyung asosasyon niyo na headed by Mr. Veguillas. Humingi kayo ng tulong by writing the government or the PSC kung ano man ang mga kailangan noyo because they (the Philippine Skating Union) are the recognized agency,” he said.
"Ang nangyari dito ay they coursed it through the POC. Sila (POC) po ang sumulat sa amin… humingi sila ng tulong na $7,200 for training. Nagbigay kami kaagad without any questions.”
Garcia also said Martinez’s sponsor, retail giant SM, which owns three skating rinks in the Philippines, shouldered most of the skater's training needs.
He said SM Prime Holdings president Hans Sy volunteered to finance the skater’s training, amid the PSC’s meager budget.
“Sabi n’ya ‘Alam ko naman ang sitwasyon ng PSC sa mga budget, kaya huwag na kayong mag-alala. Sagot ko na ito,’” said Garcia.
The PSC chairman also urged the public to stop the blame game even as he promised to extend whatever support Martinez needs for future events.
“Huwag tayong magturuan or whatever, as I said lahat ng tulong ay ibibigay namin sa mga atleta. We assured na kung anong kailangan niya sa mga susunod na tournaments or events, all they need is to ask the NSA to write us a letter and we will be ready to support.”