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Duterte eyes probe of SEA Games mess

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MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte is eyeing an investigation into allegations of corruption hounding the Philippines’ hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games (SEAG).

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Duterte, who just arrived from an official trip, was “displeased” by what he has been hearing about the regional multi-sport which will run from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11.

Foreign and local athletes and journalists have already complained of problems with accommodation, food, facilities, transportation among others.

“The President is not pleased by what he has been hearing about the certain snafu, certain delays, certain allegations of athletes not being fed properly, of athletes arriving late or not on time delivered to their places of rest or residence. He’s displeased,” Panelo said in a televised interview.

“Ayaw niya ‘yun (He doesn’t want that). And there were allegations of fraud na lumalabas sa diyaryo. Ayaw niya rin ‘yun (coming out on the newspapers. He doesn’t want that either). He wants to investigate that. Hindi uubra sa kanya ang corruption (He won’t tolerate corruption),”

Panelo said the investigation would include Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (Phisgoc) Foundation Inc.chairman, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, and the controversial PHP50-million cauldron project.

He also welcomed investigations to be conducted by both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, Panelo said that Phisgoc should also reconsider accepting help offered by government agencies for being unable to carry out its assigned tasks.

Memorandum Circular No. 56, signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea by authority of the President last January 25, urges all government agencies and instrumentalities, including government-owned or -controlled corporations and local government units to extend their support to the Phisgoc in the preparation, organization, and holding of the biennial meet.

It also asked the Philippine Sports Commission, the Philippine Olympic Committee and all the concerned national sports associations (NSAs) to coordinate with and support each other for the effective preparation and successful participation of the Philippine delegates in the biennial sports meet and all preparatory and relevant competitions.

Duterte’s former aide, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go earlier said Duterte was “very concerned” about the welfare of athletes participating in the event.

On Sunday, Panelo assured the athletes would have a “pleasant, productive, and memorable” stay in the Philippines.

“We are not promising that the Games will run without a hitch, given the countless athletes who will participate and represent their respective countries. But we will exercise due diligence in making sure everyone will have a pleasant, productive, and memorable stay in the Philippines,” Panelo said.

Heads will roll

Panelo earlier said no official from Phisgoc will be dismissed but changed tune following reports of complaints and problems encountered by foreign delegates particularly football team members.

In an interview with Radyo Pilipinas on Wednesday, Panelo said heads will roll among the local organizers of the biennial meet.

“Oo, siyempre accountable ‘yung mga tao diyan kung meron nga kaya kailangang paimbestigahan (Yes, of course the people at fault with be held accountable that’s why we want them investigated),” Panelo said.

“Sabi niya, kailangan ayusin nila yung ginagawa nila para hindi tayo mapapahiya sa ibang bansa. Sabi niya, mananagot ‘yung mga may kasalanan kung meron man (The President said they need to fix their mess so that we don’t embarrass ourselves to other countries),” Panelo said.

He, however, acknowledged that some news reports on alleged SEA Games-related blunders were fake such as some athletes being fed kikiam for their breakfast buffet when they were actually served chicken sausage.

The Palace official also said the government agencies are ready to provide assistance should the Phisgoc needs it.

“Kung ano pa man ang kakulangan, tulungan na lang natin (Whatever they lack in, we’ll help them),” he said.

Panelo said it was not yet clear whether the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) or Department of Justice (DOJ) would conduct the investigation.

On Tuesday, PACC chair Dante Jimenez said there would be an immediate investigation into the supposed blunders hounding the SEA Games once a complaint is lodged before his office.

While a complaint has yet to be filed, Jimenez said the PACC may launch a “motu proprio” (on its own) investigation into the supposed mistakes committed by SEA Games organizers. (PNA)