Escaping the chopping block

By: Reyshimar Arguelles

We all have to agree that the organizers of the 2019 Southeast Asian games, after suffering from a number of logistical problems, really did put on a great show. Critics were silent if not overwhelmed by the spectacle of the opening ceremony last Saturday.

Almost instantly did everyone forget about the chaotic first few days which were peppered with errors and complaints from both local and international spectators, much to the dismay of those who thought the SEA Games would hit the floor and result in this administration’s downfall.

They were all proven wrong. The awkward silence from the opposition would later transmute into a feeling of  “oh well, let’s move on.” There is nothing more delightful to the ears of Duterte’s advocates than hearing either sweet silence or a total surrender to what this controversial administration stands for.

At this point, there is nothing that veteran journalist Raissa Robles could do but respond the way everyone else has. Instead, she resorted to making pointless side comments that only emboldened the pro-Duterte social media crowd to hate the opposition even more for being such sore losers. You know you have gotten so saddeningly low when your idea of resisting a bloodthirsty egomaniacal government has to involve calling out Apl.De.Ap for not being Filipino.

The winners of the ceremony, of course, were the members of the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) who were spared from further humiliation. Now that everyone is sharing #WeWinasOne and opposition leaders were put in their places, PHISGOC chairman and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano is probably thinking he has escaped the chopping block.

It is naive, however, to assume that everything positive about the SEA Games could adequately compensate the allegations of corruption that haunted the run up to the main event. First and foremost is Cayetano’s role in the PHISGOC which, according to Senator Franklin Drilon during the budget deliberations for the SEA Games, would have been better assumed by government agencies, particularly the Philippine Sports Commission.

As the initial mishaps began surfacing, Cayetano was quick to pin the blame on Drilon for delaying the release of the funds that would have fast-tracked the completion of the venues for the event. For everyone who consider the country’s hosting of the SEA Games an opportunity to raise prestige, this blatant act of finger-pointing only made Cayetano even more the villain in the eyes of the President’s supporters, with Senator Imee Marcos (of all people) instructing Senator Bong Go to pursue the PHISGOC’s blunders.

As if things would not get even weirder, Palace Spokesperson Salvador Panelo sided with the critics (the so-called crabs who are supposedly bringing the country down with their negativity) and told the press that the Duterte administration is going to dig deeper into the PHISGOC mess. The stench is unbearable and we all know how sensitive this administration’s nose is to the stench of corruption.

At least now we have a government that acts objectively and proves that you could enjoy the spectacle of the SEA Games and still get pissed off by the things that are wrong with it. After all, it is paid by the people. We are all for national pride, yes, but we deserve an accounting of what really transpired in procurement processes and disbursements involving the PHISGOC.

But just as everyone is eager to have Cayetano explain himself, Duterte absolved him and, instead, accused other elements within the PHISGOC for having a direct hand.

It comes as a no-brainer that Duterte would rescue his former running mate from claims of wrongdoing, but would it help to hold the rest of the PHISGOC accountable and let the leader go scott-free?

This has all the trappings of a fiasco where the principle of the chain-of-command applies. The government has to lock up the knuckleheads responsible, which means to say it should not pretend as if the leadership of the PHISGOC has no idea of what was happening on the ground.

The government has to be keen on this. It is good to see Filipino athletes rake in gold, but shouldn’t we be triggered when public officials do some raking of their own?