Duterte orders probe on SEA Games mess

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    PRESIDENT Duterte has ordered an investigation on the alleged corruption and various complaints hounding the country’s hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games set to officially start this Saturday.

    Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, concurrent presidential spokesman, said the President on Tuesday night talked about how “displeased” he was after hearing about the complaints over accommodation, transportation arrangements, and food provisions, among others.

    “I talked to the President last night, he is not happy with what he is hearing. He said they should fix this and do their job to avoid embarrassing us in front of other countries. He said someone should be held accountable if warranted,” Panelo said in an interview with government radio station Radyo Pilipinas.

    In a separate interview over CNN Philippines, Panelo could not say which body would do the investigation and when it would start. He said the President would probably order someone from the Office of the President to do a discreet investigation.

    He acknowledged that some of the reports and complaints about the blunders in the SEA Games preparations were “fake” but emphasized that the important thing is to get to the bottom of the complaints and controversies and to hold someone responsible, if possible.
    “Of course, the people at fault will be held accountable, that’s why we want them investigated,” he said when asked if heads will roll.

    Several complaints had been aired through social and mainstream media about poor arrangements, including delayed transportation pick up of foreign athletes, mixed up accommodations and delayed check-in in hotels, provision of non-nutritious food, wrong names and rejected media accreditations, and delayed completion of venues, among others.

    Panelo said he is not aware if the President had talked to Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee Foundation Inc. chairman and Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano about the complaints and investigations but he had personally been forwarding complaints that he received or heard of to Cayetano who assured him they are being addressed.

    He said Phisgoc should also reconsider accepting the help offered by government agencies if it is unable to carry out some of its tasks.

    Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go, in a privilege speech earlier this week, said organizers of the Games will face the consequences if they embarrass the Philippines with their incompetence.

    “Let me remind everyone that you will be answerable to the President, and most especially to the Filipino people,” Go said as he urged the Philippine Sports Commission, Philippine Olympic Committee, and the PHISGOC to get their acts together.

    Go also said he would initiate a Senate probe on the mess.

    Go also said that Duterte wants to give additional incentives to Filipino athletes who will bag medals in the games in addition to the incentives provided by law. He, however, said the President has not mentioned any particular amount.

    NO HOUSE PROBE?

    Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said the public cannot expect the House of Representatives to investigate the workings of the organizing committee of the 30th Southeast Asian Games following various complaints from foreign athletes.

    Salceda, chair of the House committee on ways and means, said it would also not look good of the House would investigate the alleged fiasco because Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano is the chair of PHISGOC.

    “Of course, he’s our Speaker and therefore I don’t think an investigation will prosper in the House,” he told a news forum in Manila. “We will support the Speaker. Better if the Senate does it.”

    Salceda, who earlier called the P55 million worth SEA Games cauldron “imeldific,” expressed confidence the flak drawn by the organizers would soon be reversed.

    “There will be a tidal wave of reversal of public sentiment starting Nov. 30. This will be the best SEA Games hosted in the history,” he said. “These games will make you proud. I’ve seen how hardworking Speaker Cayetano is. Those who are being negative about it will eat their own words.”

    STRATEGY?

    Senate President Vicente Sotto III tagged as “strategy” the bickering aired by several foreign delegates on the alleged sloppy preparations to the 30th Southeast Asian Games so Filipino athletes would lose focus.

    “That could be a strategy. Why would the coaches gather themselves, hold a press conference, and air their grievances?” Sotto said.

    Sotto recalled that when he was a national athlete for bowling in the late ‘70s to the mid ‘80s, there were instances when they had to shoulder their own expenses for food and hotel accommodation since the host country was not obliged to foot the athletes’ bills all the way.

    MMDA APPEALS

    The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority urged the public to avoid EDSA as much as possible on Nov. 30, Saturday, to give way to the convoy of vehicles of athletes and those who will watch the opening ceremonies at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.

    In a DZMM interview, MMDA EDSA Traffic Head Bong Nebrija said the time frame that should be avoided is from lunch up to 5 p.m.

    The Department of Interior and Local Government is supporting calls for the suspension of classes in Metro Manila to ease traffic during the games.

    “We support the calls to declare class suspension. It that decision is going to be made, that would be a big help in alleviating the traffic problem in Metro Manila,” said DILG spokesman Jonathan Malaya.

    In a press briefing in Camp Crame, Malaya said suspending classes in Metro Manila would mean the smooth movement of the athletes and delegates, noting that many of the games’ venues are in the metropolis. – With Raymond Africa, Victor Reyes and Rod Lagusad