False start
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - December 2, 2019 - 12:00am

It was typical Filipino fiesta celebration, very colorful and cheerful gala festivities that marked the opening ceremonies of the South East Asian (SEA) Games held at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan last night. All differences, conflict, and nitpicking set aside for a short while. But diehard negativists really could not help themselves but loved to play to the hilt being Christmas Grinch. 

Feuding parties relentlessly went after each other’s necks. No one of them even tried to heed “ceasefire” calls by well meaning camps. Sadly, our very own national sports associations are as politicized as the politicians who cashed in to the 30th SEA Games brouhaha. 

Thankfully, we have workers who are not into winning the hearts and minds of “so very hard to please” people. They plodded on to accomplish the tasks at hand that must be completed no matter the challenges thrown their way. 

They are the thousand name-less and face-less workers who made this Filipino aspiration of “Winning as One” at the SEA Games achievable. With the opening rites over and done with, we look forward to yet another spectacle on Dec. 11 being put together by the SEA Games organizers. With some finishing touches for the closing ceremonies, the same hard working people will try to highlight the successful staging of these biennial sports competitions being held here in our beloved country.

We’re still very hopeful though our Filipino athletes won’t get sucked in to all of these unnecessary distractions. Go, go, go Team Philippines!

If that’s how our demo-crazy country works, so be it.

It is to the credit, however, of a bureaucrat-cum-technocrat who held together the whole government efforts to bring about the staging of the SEA Games amid the flood of severe criticisms days before the sports events started. It was no small efforts for Vivencio “Vince” Dizon, president and chief executive officer of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), to get through the barrage of obvious politically motivated attacks on the SEA Games organizers. 

Originally, Dizon is one of the key members implementing the ambitious infrastructure program of President Rodrigo Duterte dubbed as Build, Build, Build projects in Clark City in Pampanga and Subic Bay in Zambales which are under the umbrella of the BCDA.

Impressed by his performance in implementing his administration’s Build, Build, Build program, President Duterte appointed Dizon last September to become his Presidential Flagship Projects and Programs Secretary. As such, Dizon was one of the government officials designated to be one of the key members of the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) since it involved a lot of construction, rehabilitation and renovation of the various sports arena and complex that would be used for these events, including those in Clark City.

Unfortunately for Dizon, he is closely identified with House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, chairman of the PHISGOC. Any brownie points that would come out from the successful staging of SEA Games will have unintended boost probably to the political stock of Cayetano in the next presidential elections in May 2022. 

The single biggest criticism on the construction of the P55 million “cauldron” for the SEA Games at the New Clark City, it would seem, signaled the onset of attacks against PHISGOC. Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon first made the mistake to claim the “cauldron” was awarded in a contract with the firm of the late National Artist for Architecture Bobby Mañosa because the latter was supposedly the father-in-law of Dizon. Later, Drilon subsequently apologized for wrongly insinuating. 

Following the furor that followed the reported bungled pre-Games incidents, an irritated President Duterte vowed to look into charges of alleged corruption that went into some of these questioned SEA Games contracts. However, the latest words from the President cleared Cayetano, his erstwhile May 2016 vice presidential running mate, from any corruption shenanigan as PHISGOC chief.

The presidential clearance apparently did not sit well with daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte. This was after she earlier made sideswipe comment in her social media on the PHISGOC’s mishaps under Cayetano’s watch. Yesterday, Mayor Sara posted in her Twitter account to take flimsy parochial issue why Mindanao was left out. She decried in particular the 1970’s Hotdog hit song “Manila” that was played at the parade of Filipino athletes participating in the SEA Games. Oh well...

Look, even Apo Hiking trio singer Jim Paredes, a known critic of President Duterte, called the opening of #SEAG2019 a “grand show.” Despite latest public presidential tirades on her, Vice President Leni Robredo tweeted: “Nakaka-proud maging Pinoy! Maraming salamat sa ating mga atleta, world champions, mga tagapagtanghal, and to everyone behind the #SEAGames2019 opening ceremony.”

Was Mayor Sara retorting rhetorically to the interview Friday night at the CNN Philippines when her father disclosed having bluntly told his daughter she should not aspire to run and succeed him in office at Malacañang? Mrs. Robredo was also the recipient of the unsolicited advice in the same CNN Philippines interview not to run in the next presidential race. The Vice President and her political spokesman paid no attention to it. Hopefully, the Vice President set the example in observing “ceasefire” for now until after the SEA Games are over. 

But why would President Duterte talk about the next presidential elections that would take place two and a half years from today? There can be so much works that could still be done and accomplished that have nothing to do with politics, Mr. President. 

“Let the games begin!” is the usual declaration made at the opening of big sports events. Like a false start that could disqualify an athlete in a game for doing so twice, premature politicking could spell disaster to any wannabes in a presidential race that would happen in May 2022 yet.

SEA GAMES
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