Wenceslao: Statement of the Concerned Lawyers for Civil Liberties

Bong O. Wenceslao

WHO was it who said that the presidency is a matter of destiny? Or how many politicians have eyed the presidency and in the end fell by the wayside? Who would have thought Noynoy Aquino or Rodrigo Duterte would become President? Or Cory Aquino? Yet Ramon Mitra and Jose de Venecia and even Doy Laurel, who were like ants already licking the opening to the insides of the honey-filled presidential bottle, didn’t make it.

Reminds me of House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, who apparently wants to become President by hook or by crook. There is in this man the same ambitious streak that has become the downfall of politicians like him in the past. The man is now being flogged for something he obviously deserved.

Cayetano is House Speaker but sought to grab the limelight as the country hosts the biennial Southeast Asian Games (Seag). He wiggled into the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (Phisgoc) as its head even if he is no sports leader. He failed to realize that only a thin line lies between popularity and notoriety.

The Seag has yet to formally open but complaints have hounded Phisgoc and Cayetano. It is in setups like these when social media can be harsh to the incompetent. And to the profligate.

Cayetano is now being labeled “caldero king” for championing the construction of a P45-million cauldron in New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac to be used for the Seag opening. The act has been called “Imeldific” by the political opposition for its lavishness. Indeed, the money could have been used to better prepare our athletes for the competition instead.

Now that some of the athletes and the other members of the delegations have arrived, complaints especially on food and accommodation are starting to become a deluge. The delegations that have arrived will participate in competitions that are held in advance of the Seag formal opening. The worry now is when the bulk of the Seag participants will arrive. Will the incompetence be multiplied too?

This is not the first time that the Philippines hosted the Seag. But this is the first time we are hearing a magnitude of complaints resulting from the incompetence of the host. Yet didn’t we hear as early as July the Phisgoc boasting that we are ready for the Seag hosting and that the event here would be world class?

To be fair, this is yet early in the “game.” With the initial debacle, the Philippine government can still rescue Phisgoc, which is a private entity. I read somewhere that the Department of Tourism has entered the picture, especially on the matter of billeting. There is still time to make our hosting succeed. We can continue the recriminations after the Seag and when all the foreign delegations have left.

But lessons need to be learned, and one of them is that politicians should not be allowed to handle sporting events or even dip their dirty fingers into sporting activities. We lost a potential world number 1 in chess because of that. And Cayetano may have lost his presidential bid because of that too.