By Ivan Saldajeno
MANILA—President Rodrigo Duterte is keen on having the government manage the upcoming Southeast Asian Games and not the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee.
"He said that he doesn't want the foundation. Gusto niya, gobyerno," Presidential Spokesman Sal Panelo said during a press briefing at the Malacañang Palace on Tuesday.
Panelo's statement confirmed what Duterte told Aldrin Cardona of The Daily Tribune in a report last week.
On why Duterte would prefer the government, through the Philippine Sports Commission, to take over the hosting chores from PHISGOC, Panelo replied, "Sabi niya maraming corruption doon sa private [sector], kaya nasisira yung diskarte ng mga leader."
The PHISGOC was initially designed as a collaboration between the PSC and the Philippine Olympic Committee for the SEAG with then Foreign Affairs secretary Alan Cayetano serving as chairman.
But the now Taguig-Pateros congressman, following a change in the POC leadership, eventually incorporated PHISGOC into a private foundation with POC president Ricky Vargas among the founding members as he himself revealed last month.
The incorporation of PHISGOC did not sit well with POC's executive board, leading to a rift that eventually caused Vargas' resignation as POC chief.
[Related Story: Ricky Vargas steps down as POC head]
A snap election for the POC presidency was initially scheduled for July 5 but was moved to July 28 after the International Olympic Committee and the Olympic Council of Asia asked the POC to become overseers for the said event.
The PHISGOC Foundation has then been accused of corrupt practices, especially an alleged overpricing in uniforms of the athletes that will compete in the biennial meet, whose 2019 edition is set from Nov. 30-Dec. 11 in multiple cities in the Philippines with Capas, the home of the New Clark City, being the main host.
"As a matter of standard procedure, when there's corruption, it's supposed to be the agencies involved in the investigation will have to delve into that without being asked by the president," Panelo continued.
He then said that Cayetano could be relieved of his role in organizing the SEA Games due to his congressional tenure especially that he is the front-runner to become the speaker of the House of Representatives.
"Baka mahirapan si Congressman Cayetano kung siya ang mag-i-speaker. How can he even have time for that?" Panelo further said.
However, he clarified that Cayetano should be cleared of the corruption allegations as what Duterte thinks and even said that Duterte is still trusting Cayetano.
Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno