Villanueva's death puts spotlight on poor retired athletes

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 15 2014 09:02 PM | Updated as of May 16 2014 05:02 AM

MANILA, Philippines – The recent death of Olympic silver medalist has placed a spotlight on the country's Incentive Act, which grants cash and other non-monetary benefits for the country's athletes and coaches.

The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman Richie Garcia said Republic Act 9064 needs to be amended to better address the needs of retired athletes.

“It is by law that we allocate 25 percent of the total incentive that they won will be given to the athletes lump sum,” Garcia said in an interview on ANC’s Hardball. “We find this a little bit weak.”

Garcia maintained that his agency has allocated an amount to help Villanueva address his medical needs. This is aside from the P1.25-million lump sum they gave to the former Olympian for winning the silver medal in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

“I met Anthony Villanueva… he went to the office one time. He was sick then and we allocated a certain funding for Anthony to cover his medical expenses, but he was very sick then,’ recalled Garcia.

“Maybe [Congress] should pass a bill or a law that the pension of these athletes for life should be an amount that can make their life comfortable… Anthony was given only P7,000 a month, which is way below the needs of his medical or the rental of his apartment,” he noted.

Garcia said his office has been making representation to the House of Representatives and the Senate with regards to the amendment of the Incentive Act.

According to him, Davao del Norte Congressman Antonio Del Rosario, the chairman of the House Committee on Youth and Sports Development, has already signified his intent to push for the amendments.

“I hope we'll be able to amend R.A. 9064 to make the lives of our athletes better and support their families in case of death,” said Garcia.

Implementing rules

RA 9064 was passed during the 11th Congress back in 2001, outlining the cash incentives for winning athletes competing in the amateur ranks.

But the problem, said Garcia, is that the law is lacking in terms of the implementing rules and regulation.

“We've been asking all the agencies involved to sit down and come up with the implementing rules and regulations... it has to be decided by the agencies involved like the PAGCOR, DOH, Philhealth and the Department of Education,” he said.

Villanueva died in his sleep last Tuesday after spending his twilight years in poverty.

The amateur boxer nearly won the gold medal in 1964 but was forced to settle for silver following a controversial loss to the Soviet Union's Stanislav Stepashkin.

However, Villanueva set the record for being the first Filipino Olympic silver medalist.

His feat was duplicated by another boxer, Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco, 32 years later.

“We lost a very talented athlete, a silver medalist in the Olympics which everybody thought that he should have won a gold medal,” said Garcia.

“Anthony ‘til the end was fighting and it's a great loss for Philippine sports.”