November 22, 2019 at 01:00 am
Alejandro Del Rosario
"This is money that could have been spent to build more classrooms or develop sports."
Senators are questioning the P50-million cauldron commissioned by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano for the Southeast Asian Games.
According to Cayetano, the cauldron—to be aflame during athletic competitions in the SEA games to be hosted by the Philippines—is a work of art and symbol of the sporting event.
He also said it is only P45 million and not P50 M as reported in media. The Speaker is the concurrent chairman of the SEA organizing committee.
So okay, it is P5 million less but it still expensive. This is money that could have been spent to build more classrooms or develop sports. The country needs these badly.
The Philippines finished in sixth place in the 2017 SE Asian Games. Vietnam, which went through two major wars against the French and the Americans, did even better than the Philippines in the overall standings.
The Philippine Sports Commission said it did not know the cauldron cost that much. Butch Ramirez, PSC head, says that cost does not include expenses for the kerosene to keep the cauldron lit up throughout the Games which start on Nov. 30.
The senators were mild in the tome of their questioning of Cayetano, a former colleague in the upper chamber. The more pressing questions were asked by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon who thought the cauldron was too expensive, considering it is going to be used only once. There was no mention that the cauldron would be turned over to the next host with part of the cost to be shouldered by them.
Drilon also asked why several new facilities were built for the Games instead of rehabilitating the existing ones like the Rizal Memorial sports complex in Manila. Cayetano said it would cost more to repair and rehabilitate the sports complex along Ocampo street in Manila as it has really gone to pot.
Questions are being asked why Cayetano, who is already saddled with work as Speaker of the House, was still made chairman of the SEA organizing committee. His term as Speaker is also being challenged by Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco who, under a gentlemen’s agreement, was supposed to take over the speakership after Cayeteno had occupied it for 15 months. But Cayetano wants to stay on, claiming the supermajority in the House wants to retain for “a job well done.”
President Rodrigo Duterte who brokered the agreement between Cayetano and Velasco now says he will leave the House speakership issue for the House members to decide. That, it seems to us, is allowing Cayetano to welsh on the agreement and stay on as Speaker.
As Speaker of the House, Cayetano is the third in line to succeed the President after the Vice President, Senate President in case he is incapacitated. The fourth man in the succession ladder is the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
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Meanwhile, Vice President Leni Robredo who was appointed as anti-illegal drug czar debunked fake news that she has invited United Nations prosecutors to investigate alleged extrajudicial killings of drug suspects. She also said she is not insisting to get from the Drug Enforcement Agency the list of high-value drug lord targets. Robredo said she is aware of the sensitive nature of this list and will not compromise it by making it public.
If the administration has this list, why then does it not go after these high-value targets instead of concentrating on small time drug runners and users?
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo disputed Robredo's statement that most of the illegal drugs in the Philippines come from China. Shabu is also manufactured here by Chinese drug lords in connivance with Filipinos. Robredo wrote the President to ask about her mandate and parameters as anti-drug czar, even without Cabinet rank. Mr. Duterte made clear Robredo can only attend Cabinet meetings when the subject of drugs is on the agenda.