This was the question of President Rodrigo Duterte as he lamented the lack of foresight of the organizers of the Southeast Asian Games, adding that the military should have taken the lead for logistics.
READ: Logistical snafu greets athletes
But he immediately exonerated House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, who heads the SEA Games organizing committee, from corruption allegations even as the Palace has yet to start its investigation.
“So the next time we have this, the military will handle it. Because the military is structural. If the [visitor] have arrived, you just say, ‘You are assigned to that,’” Duterte said in a chance interview with reporters Thursday.
“Things like this should be handled by military men. For one, they are better organizers because the entire Armed Forces is one big organization,” he added.
Duterte also said he will let the Public Attorney’s Office and the Commission on Audit to lead the investigation.
READ: Duterte: Probe SEAG snafu
Asked if he thinks Cayetano is accountable, he said: “Yes, he has to answer. But I don’t think he is involved in corruption.”
Cayetano on Thursday said he is ready to face an investigation into the ‘blunders’ in relation to the country’s hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games after the sports event is held.
“[Come] Dec. 12, hold me accountable. Hold the SEA Games Organizing Committee accountable,” he said in a speech during the 44th National Prayer Breakfast in San Juan City.
“I am not afraid. I am ready to face the Senate... the Ombudsman,” he said in Filipino.
Cayetano said he is even ready to take a lie detector test to prove he didn’t obtain any personal benefit from his stint as head of the organizing committee.
“I’m willing to do a lie detector test. And I can look anyone in the eye [and say] we did not get a single centavo. In fact, we had to spend our personal funds,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Cayetano on Thursday said money was flowing into an alleged smear campaign against him and the organization committee.
Four or five websites are continuously publishing fake news on the regional event, he said.
“They want to perpetuate the lie. Is the hosting perfect? No. But is it good? It’s very good,” he added.
Cayetano said he was considering filing libel charges against those behind the alleged disinformation campaign.
But the University of the Philippines journalism professor Danilo Arao said in a media forum that journalists cannot be expected to report only about positive developments as this would be akin to public relations.
Earlier, the Palace said criticism of the way the SEA Games were run should be welcomed because there is indeed something “wrong with the preparations.”
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee should perform “better” and said the Palace has been “closely monitoring” the regional games, which have been marred in the run-up to the opening on Nov. 30 with complaints from athletes and media about the accreditation process, accommodations, food, facilities, and transportation.
READ: Palace deals SEAG organizers stinging rebuke
Panelo said the Palace investigation would include Cayetano as PHISGOC chair even if he is an ally of the President, as well as the controversial P50-million stadium cauldron, Panelo said.
“An array of criticisms has been made on how PHISGOC has handled the logistics of this momentous event, and these should be accepted and considered in order to rectify the errors it has committed,” Panelo said in a statement.
“The critics have a point. There is indeed something wrong with the preparations,” he added.
Meanwhile, Panelo said Filipinos should support local athletes and welcome foreign guests while the games are ongoing.
President Duterte will also give incentives and even medals to the winning athletes, he said.
Panelo also “strongly suggested” that organizers waive the fee of SEA Games events for students or give them 50 percent discounts.
This was in response to the call made by Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas president Monico Puentevella to make SEA Games events free to the public, saying the home teams would benefit if fans were allowed to enter the stadiums free.
He added classes in Metro Manila schools and those in Clark and Subic should be suspended to allow students to rally behind Filipino athletes.
Games in water polo, polo, netball, and football have started in different areas in Metro Manila and Central Luzon since Tuesday.
The President is scheduled to attend the opening of SEA Games on Saturday, which will be held at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
Filipino-American rapper and singer Allan Pineda or apl.de.ap of the Black Eyed Peas is slated to perform in the opening ceremony.
Tickets cost P12,000 for Patron A, P4,000 for upper box, P1,500 for general admission center, and P1,000 for general admission side.
World gymnastics champion Carlos Edriel Yulo will be the torchbearer in the opening rites.
Hidilyn Diaz, EJ Obiena, Nesthy Petecio, Eumir Marcial, Margielyn Didal, and Kiyomi Watanabe will be the Philippine flag bearers.
Fans can also purchase tickets for the other sporting events in Clark, Subic, and Metro Manila through smtickets.com.
Also on Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon lashed back at a House member who accused him of cutting the budget for SEA Games and transferring it to his home province of Iloilo.
“It is a complete lie. Mr. Salo is a blabbermouth and a purveyor of fake news,” said Drilon, referring to Kabayan party-list Rep. Ron Salo.
Drilon noted that a cursory check of the records would disprove the allegations made by Salo and other members of the House of Representatives today.
Salo claimed Drilon cut P2.5 billion from the budget allocated for the country’s hosting of the 2019 SEA Games.
“Curiously, however, simultaneous with the P2.5 billion slashed in the SEA Games budget, is the increase in the budget of the various infrastructure projects in Iloilo, by P2.3 billion,” Salo said in a privilege speech at the House of Representatives.
But Drilon, citing the Senate journal dated Dec. 6, 2018, said no senator moved to slash the budget for the SEA Games.
READ: Speaker blames senator for SEAG budget delay
He said The P7.5 billion funding for SEA Games that was mysteriously lodged in the budget of the Department of Foreign Affairs—that even the Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin disowned—was only transferred to the Philippine Sports Commission.
The third reading version of the 2019 General Appropriations Bill passed by the Senate, Drilon also said, would show that the P7.5-billion budget lodged under the Philippine Sports Commission was intact.
The Senate leader said it was during the bicameral conference committee, which members of the House were a part of, that the SEA Games budget was slashed to P5 billion.
“For the record, it was not I who proposed to slash it to P5 billion during the bicam. The current budget of the SEA Games remains at P6 billion after P1 billion was transferred from the contingent fund,” Drilon said.
The senator added that he was transparent with all of his proposed amendments to the 2019 national budget
“If only Mr. Salo exercised due diligence, he would have saved himself from embarrassment. But that would be wishful thinking,” he said. With Vito Barcelo and PNAREAD: Solons demand truce on SEA Games debate
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