Ex-Manila Mayor Mel Lopez dies at 81
Former Manila Mayor and Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chair Gemiliano “Mel” Lopez Jr. died on Sunday night after suffering a heart attack. He was 81.
As PSC chief in 1993-1996, Lopez, along with his son, Manny Lopez, the former president of the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines (Abap), was credited with helping boxer Mansueto “Onyok’’ Velasco capture a silver medal in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Velasco’s silver finish was the last medal of the Philippines in the Olympics before weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, who also bagged a silver medal, broke the country’s 20-year medal slump last year in the Rio Olympics.
Philippine amateur boxing was at its peak during the term of Lopez, particularly in the 1994 Asian Games in Hiroshima, where Filipino boxers saved the nation’s campaign with three gold medals and two bronzes.
Aside from imprinting his legacy in sports, Lopez was a staunch critic of the Marcos regime after organizing the opposition as a Manila councilor in the 1960s. He served as Manila mayor prior to his PSC stint.
He was also one of the founding signatories of the Lakas ng Bayan (Laban) political party.
After retiring from PSC, Lopez left Philippine boxing to the care of his son Manny, who became the first vice president of the Philippine Olympic Committee and now representative of Manila’s first district.
Lopez was also chair of Pacific Concrete Products Inc.
Lopez served as Manila councilor in 1963, assemblyman in the Batasang Pambansa from 1984 to 1986 and finally as mayor from 1986 to 1992.
He ran for reelection as Manila mayor in 1995 but lost to Alfredo Lim. Lopez was supposed to run again in 2001, but he gave way to former Rep. Amado Bagatsing.
While mayor of Manila, he launched grassroots boxing development programs for the youth under the now-defunct Manila Integrated Sports Development Council. Some of the athletes who benefited from his projects were the Velasco brothers, Onyok and Roel.
He was also the president of Abap and an executive committee member of the International Amateur Boxing Association, the ruling body for the sport.
In 2010, President Aquino appointed Lopez as chair of the Philippine National Oil Company Exploration Corp. and he was cited for going after alleged scalawags in line
with Aquino’s anticorruption drive. —With a report from Inquirer Research/rga