Duterte offers cash but no apology to Philippine Olympic champion Diaz

Duterte (right) returns a salute from Olympic gold medalist weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz during a video conference at the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila, Philippines, on July 28, 2021. - AP

MANILA (AFP): Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte urged Olympic weightlifting champion Hidilyn Diaz on Wednesday (July 28) to "let bygones be bygones", two years after his government named the Filipina in a chart claiming to show a plot to undermine him.

Duterte spoke to the athlete in a Zoom call broadcast live on state television shortly after she arrived in Manila from Tokyo where she made history Monday winning the country's first Olympic gold medal.

Congratulating Diaz on her performance, the president pledged to reward her with three million pesos (US$60,000) out of his own pocket, and told her to "forget" about "bad things" from the past.

"You already have the gold and it would be good for you to let bygones be bygones," he told the 30-year-old.

Diaz, wearing her Philippine Air Force uniform with her gold medal draped around her neck as she sat in a room at the airport, thanked Duterte before saluting him.

In 2019 the Rio silver medallist was among dozens named in charts released by Duterte's then spokesman allegedly showing links between people he accused of plotting to "discredit this administration".

The charts, which did not substantiate the accusations, included the names of opposition politicians, an exiled communist guerrilla leader, journalists and others.

People called out publicly by the president for perceived wrongdoings -- frequently in the form of alleged links to the drug trade -- have sometimes ended up dead or in jail.

"I am shocked. I am concerned for my security as well as that of my parents," Diaz said at the time.

Salvador Panelo, who was the spokesman and is now the president's chief legal counsel, said this week he had previously clarified Diaz was not part of the anti-government plot, but was merely followed on social media by one of the suspects.

The "oust Duterte matrix" had been "misinterpreted", Panelo told local media.

Diaz was welcomed at Manila airport by Philippine Air Force officers waving the national flag. She will spend the next seven days in hotel quarantine.

The athlete's triumph has made her a national hero, alongside the likes of boxing legend Manny Pacquiao.

The feat is also a life-changing windfall for Diaz, the daughter of a tricycle driver on the southern island of Mindanao.

In addition to the three million pesos offered by Duterte, she will receive 33 million pesos and two properties from the government and private sector.

She was also promoted to staff sergeant, earning her a 630-peso monthly pay increase from her previous rank of sergeant, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said.

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