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Editorial

‘Unintended misinformation’

/ 04:07 AM October 15, 2020

A deleted post is probably the quickest way to deal with a social media faux pas. But if a post catches fire before deletion, it can’t be erased from public consciousness that easily.

The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) is probably wishing it could hose off a viral issue that began supposedly with the noblest of intentions.

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After Alex Eala, the country’s fastest rising tennis star at present, made a run to the girls’ semifinal round of the prestigious French Open at Roland Garros in Paris, the PSC — a government agency tasked to finance and guide the country’s national sporting program — posted a congratulatory message for the young ace.

But in an apparent effort to take some credit for Eala’s steady improvement in the international scene, the PSC also mentioned the financial assistance it ostensibly extended to the Filipino teenager, who has now risen to No. 2 in the world girls’ ranking.

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The PSC said it had shelled out P4.5 million in total to support the 15-year-old Eala.

The Facebook post would have generated little interest had it not been for one glaring detail.

Eala’s mother, Rizza Maniego Eala, quickly came out with her own post saying they hadn’t received any assistance from the PSC at all. Worse, they “were given the runaround” when they submitted documents “two inches thick” to collect on the cash assistance the PSC had verbally promised, she added.

The Ealas clarified that they were not complaining; in fact, had it not for the PSC’s claim of assistance, they wouldn’t have even brought up the issue. Michael Eala, Alex’s dad, said that after the French Open run, he was merely humbled and happy over the support his daughter had received from Filipino tennis fans who followed her matches via livestream and rooted for her virtually.

“There are people calling us to say that their families gathered around for a viewing party each time Alex played,” said Michael. “We are humbled at the support Alex is getting everywhere.”

The PSC’s baseless claim of financial assistance toward Eala led to the agency apologizing to the family and the public, deleting its post, and characterizing it as “unintended misinformation.” There is support money intended for the tennis star, it said, but “while there was an approved board resolution to this effect, it was later clarified that this is still being processed, awaiting required documents.”

PSC executive director Guillermo Iroy later said he would look into the matter and facilitate the immediate release of Alex’s cash assistance.

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But the Ealas are refusing the help.

“They can give that financial assistance to other athletes who badly need it,” Michael told this paper. “We’ve come this far without them anyway.”

Alex, a scholar at the Rafael Nadal Academy in Mallorca, Spain, has been getting by with her family’s help and some corporate backers, and is expected to hit the money pro circuit this year.

While she is fortunate to have built a support system that can supply her needs, not every national athlete or professional is as privileged.

The PSC recently pledged to help karate athlete James delos Santos, who despite being in limbo after getting cut from the national squad, has risen to No. 2 in the world in e-Kata, a competition on forms where athletes compete by submitting videos of themselves in action. One hopes he, and other athletes like him, would be spared the delays and runarounds the Ealas said they experienced with the PSC.

And for an agency dealing mostly with money, the PSC has to be even more stringent with its processes. Already, it is about to be caught in the middle of a political feud brewing at the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), which will have elections on Nov. 27.

One faction in the POC polls is dragging the issue of the unliquidated SEA Games budget into the contest in an apparent strike against the incumbent POC administration, which is seeking a full four-year term. Over 10 months since the event, many SEA Games suppliers have yet to be paid, and these suppliers are coursing their demands through the PSC. The PSC, meanwhile, is calling on the Department of Budget and Management for the release of money needed to make these payments.

The funding for the SEA Games was the biggest amount the government had ever released for the biennial meet — and perhaps for sports in general. The longer money is unaccounted for, the more likely questionable expenses can be swept under the rug. To be fair, the SEA Games budget isn’t squarely a PSC issue. It is an issue that needs to be answered primarily by the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee led by former speaker Alan Peter Cayetano. But as the government’s sports financing arm, the PSC shares in the accountability; the demands for payments piling up at its office is proof of that.

And, as shown by the Eala issue, not all problems can be dealt with by mere deletion.

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TAGS: Alex Eala, Editorial, Michael Eala, Philippine Sports Commission, Rizza Maniego Eala
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