How the Government Fails Filipino Athletes

Institute for Nationalist Studies
6 min readAug 11, 2021


By Lemuel Deinla

Artwork by Marie Louies Nicole

With the historic win of Filipino athletes in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the government was quick to claim their victories as an achievement of the Duterte administration. The truth is that their stories are among the many stories of Filipino athletes who were failed by their own government.

  • In 2019, Hidilyn Diaz revealed that she was struggling to fund her bid to compete in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Duterte supporters saw this as an attack against the President, so they attacked Diaz viciously and accused her of being arrogant and ungrateful. It all culminated when Diaz was included in the ‘Oust Duterte’ matrix, presented by then Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo. For being vocal about her struggles, she was maliciously red-tagged and sent ill-wishes by Duterte supporters.
Hidilyn Diaz’ Facebook post in 2019 where she begged for support to fund her Olympic bid. Source: ABS-CBN News
  • Para-athletes Edwin Villanueva and Adrian Asul, who are part of the Philippine Paralympic swimming team, said that they have still not received their allowances in 2019 from the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) since joining the national training pool two years prior. The para-athletes have also lamented that the government even failed to provide them food allowance and decent lodging during their training.
  • Eumir Marcial, Filipino boxer, recently shared that Thirdy Ravena would contribute financially for his bid to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Ravena, the celebrated basketball player from Ateneo de Manila University, pledged that he would chip in to Marcial’s expenses after seeing the latter’s social media post asking for donations and sponsorship.
  • Olympic boxing qualifier, Irish Magno, recently revealed that she was unable to focus on her training because she was worried if her family could even eat regularly. She said that the allowance she receives from the government was delayed and enough only for her training needs. She was unable to send money to her family in the province.
  • Filipino tennis player Alex Eala and her family rebuffed the claim made by the PSC that the commission provided her P3 million pesos aid for her training. The Eala family stated that for Alex’ participation in the Grand Slam and other tournaments, they were yet to receive “a single centavo” for her travel expenses and training.
  • Filipino chess player and grand master, Wesley So, had to switch allegiance just so he could thrive in his sport. So used to compete for the Philippines but he was pushed to his limits when the PSC withheld incentives after he won a gold medal in a competition that the commission did not officially recognize. So now competes under the US flag.
  • Michael Martinez, Filipino figure skater, recently announced his fundraising campaign for a shot at the 2022 Winter Olympics. In a Facebook post, Martinez shared his GoFundMe page and Gcash account where people can donate any amount. To augment his expenses, Martinez sells online content.

The common denominator from all of the athletes’ stories mentioned is the lack of ample support from the Philippine government. According to an in-depth analysis by GMA News, the Philippine sports sector is seriously underfunded compared to our neighbors. In 2015, the PSC received P800 million only. For comparison, Thailand allotted P14.37 billion for its sports budget in 2011.

PSC budget for 2015. Illustration from GMA News

The PSC receives most of its funding from Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), Philippine Charity Sweepstake Office (PCSO), and general appropriation from the national government. The first two contribute to the National Sports Development Fund where PSC derives most of its funding. According to Section 26 of RA 6487, the PSC is entitled to receive five percent of PAGCOR’s gross income. However, that measly five percent is further halved because of technicalities. Funding from PCSO is intermittent because it does not consider computerized Lotto as sweepstakes from which PSC is supposed to receive its share of funding from.

Budget from General Appropriations mostly stayed the same during the course of the Duterte administration. In 2017, PSC was allotted P200 million. The following year, the PSC received the same amount from the national budget. For 2019, PSC received P5 billion because the Philippines was set to host the Southeast Asian Games. The budget for this hosting stint was beleaguered with corruption allegations exemplified by the case of the fifty million peso ‘kaldero’ and embarrassing logistical problems. The commission was given nearly one billion peso budget for 2020 in preparation for the Olympics. But the pandemic hit and that one billion appropriation was realigned to fund the pandemic response efforts. P500 million from PSC’s other source of funding, the National Sports Development Fund, was also reallocated. The commission was left with only about a few hundred millions in its pocket. From the stories above, it was the athletes who suffered.

“Filipino athletes not only have to compete in their respective sports, they also have to compete with each other for scarce resources.”

Overall, the funding for PSC relies on the income from two government owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs). This is where the heart of the problem lies. The government only allocates a tiny amount of funding from the national budget. The rest of PSC’s funding comes from the earnings of GOCCs, one of which cannot be relied upon to bring a steady stream of funding.

The government fails to properly invest in Philippine sports programs mainly because the government is in a permanent austerity. As with anything that the Philippine government does, it wants the greatest output with the littlest input. The government is quick to claim glory but slow to reimburse training, lodging, travel, registration, and food expenses. Filipino athletes not only have to compete in their respective sports, they also have to compete with each other for scarce resources.

In Kara David’s documentary titled “Suntok sa Pangarap”, she follows the lives of aspiring boxers. Ill-equipped and lacking decent facilities, these future athletes suffer from utter government neglect. Source: GMA News

Filipino athletes are left to the mercy of the private sector. With the case of Marcial, Diaz, and Martinez, they have to beg for donations and sponsorships. Athletes can turn to national sports associates but, to quote Rappler, “not all National Sports Associations (NSAs) are able to attract major corporate sponsors because the reality is that companies tend to gravitate towards major spectator sports where they can maximize the exposure of their brands.”

This is why it is infuriating to know that corruption still occurs inside the sports commission. Just last year, the National Bureau of Investigation uncovered a corruption scheme in the PSC. Paul Michael Padua Ignacio reportedly manipulated the payroll of athletes receiving allowances from the commission. According to the NBI, Ignacio’s scheme went on for five years and brought him a total of P14 million. How many potential athletic legends has the country failed to discover because funding for sports is either small or gets stolen?

It is as if, there is some sort of sinister system behind this cycle of dismal government support and consequent poor performance in sporting events. Neoliberalism forces governments to be run like businesses, investing only in sectors that are deemed profitable while denying much needed resources to basic services. Sectors that do receive funding, albeit small, become battlegrounds for politicized infighting and patronage. The Philippine sports scene is no stranger to this.

Given all these obstacles, the wins of Diaz, Petecio, Marcial, and Paalam surprised and animated the entire nation. They won in spite of their hardships and the government’s failure to support them. All of the Filipino athletes who participated in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics deserve the adoration, recognition, and incentives they receive. May they inspire us to challenge the prevailing narrative that athletes, or anyone else for that matter, can achieve anything through sheer determination alone. We must demand consistent and proper support for our athletes.

Mabuhay ang atletang Pinoy!



Institute for Nationalist Studies

The Institute advances ideas and information campaigns on social issues to ferment a nationalist consciousness for the interest of the people’s welfare