By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos
MANILA – Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz will receive a cash incentive worth PHP3 million from President Rodrigo Duterte for giving the Philippines its first-ever Olympic gold medal in Tokyo.
Duterte made the announcement, after Diaz paid a “virtual” courtesy call on him on Wednesday night, few hours after she arrived onboard Philippine Airlines (PAL) flight PR 427 from Japan at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
“Maybe one of these days, if you have a time, communicate with us, para maibigay ko sa’yo ‘yung aking PHP3 million (so I can give you the PHP3 million),” Duterte told Diaz.
The PHP3-million monetary reward is on top of the PHP10 million she will receive from the government through Philippine Sports Commission, as provided under Republic Act (RA) 10699.
Apart from the cash grant, Diaz would also receive a “fully-furnished” house and lot in Zamboanga City, Duterte said.
Duterte said he would also confer the Presidential Medal of Merit, “one of the highest of the nation’s presidential medals,” on Diaz through an “appropriate” ceremony.
“As expected the nation is ecstatic about your achievement. Your achievement is the achievement of the Philippine nation. We are extremely proud. We cannot express even in the words how we should really be shouting Hallelujah,” he said. “But, over and above for this monetary consideration, it’s always the honor that you brought to the country.”
Due to movement restrictions amid prevailing Covid-19 pandemic, Diaz was instead given an “online” hero’s welcome with only few government and sports officials who received the first Olympic gold winner and her team together with skateboarding finalist Margielyn Didal at the NAIA.
Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) commissioners Celia Kiram and Charles Maxey welcomed Diaz and Didal. She was officially promoted as a Staff Sergeant while at the NAIA VIP Lounge.
Meanwhile, to honor her accomplishment, the PAL gifted Diaz with 80,000 miles per year, equivalent to five economy roundtrip domestic flights, or two roundtrip economy regional flights, or one roundtrip economy international flights. This also makes her az as PAL’s first “Forever Fyer”
Diaz ended the Philippines’ nearly a century-old Olympic gold medal quest that began in the Paris 1924 Games, after she snatched the gold medal in women’s 55 kilogram weightlifting category on Monday night.
She prevailed in a neck and neck showdown with China’s Liao Qiuyun.
‘Let bygones be bygones’
Duterte also thanked Diaz for striving hard to win the Olympic gold medal, despite the “years of toils [and] disappointments.”
He likewise told Diaz to forget the unpleasant things that happened between her and the current administration.
“Pero salamat naman sa pagtiis mo (Thank you for your hard work). I hope that the years of toils, the years of disappointments, and the years na hindi maganda ang nangyari (of bad memories that you have) in the past. Just forget them, you already have the gold. Gold is gold. And it would be good for you to just let bygones be bygones and dwell solely on your victory, together with your family and of course with the nation,” Duterte said.
In 2019, Diaz appealed for financial support amid her preparations for the Olympic event. The same year, her name was included in the broader “Oust Duterte” matrix released by then-presidential spokesperson and incumbent Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo.
Panelo in May 2019 already clarified that Diaz is not part of the ouster plot against Duterte.
Maxey admitted that he was teary-eyed when he watched the awarding ceremony of the women’s 55-kilogram weightlifting event in which “Lupang Hinirang” was played for the first time in an official Olympic medal event.
“I’m really so happy that we finally nailed the Olympic gold. I had tears in my eyes during the medal ceremony,” Maxey said.
Kiram, on the other hand, called Diaz a “babaeng matatag” (strong woman) for enduring everything in her bid for the then elusive Olympic gold.
“We are proud to represent the Philippine Sports Commission and the Filipino people in welcoming back our first Filipino Olympic gold medalist–a Filipina!” Kiram exclaimed.
“We give credit to Hidilyn herself. She sacrificed a lot. We are all proud of her,” Maxey added.
Aside from PHP10 million from the government and PHP3 million from Duterte, Diaz is also set to receive at least additional PHP23 million aside from houses and lots from private groups and individuals
The MVP Sports Foundation of telecommunication tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan has approved PHP10 million for Filipino gold medal winners while San Miguel Corporation (SMC) of Ramon S. Ang said it would also give PHP10 million for Olympic gold medalists.
Deputy Speaker Mikee Romero has also pledged PHP3 million for gold medalists. (With reports from Ivan Stewart Saldajeno and Cristina Arayata/PNA)