PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte believes his former election running mate, Speaker Alan Cayetano, is innocent of corruption in the hosting of the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
However, he conceded that the military could have done a better job than the present organizers in managing preparations for the event. Cayetano is the also chair of the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC).
The President defended Cayetano despite a slew of criticisms against the PHISGOC for multiple blunders ahead of the games’ official opening.
“I am sure Cayetano is not involved in corruption,” Duterte told reporters in Malacañang.
This comes after Duterte said he wanted a probe into the corruption allegations against the organizers of the event. He said he will assign some retired auditors from the Commission on Audit and some lawyers who were his fraternity brothers to conduct the investigation.
He clarified that this does not mean he does not trust Cayetano but that he only wants to trace where the missteps came from.
“I don’t know if it is outright lack of foresight...I am not investigating Cayetano. I am just trying to find out because the money must not have been properly disbursed,” he said. “I know Cayetano could have handled everything.”
Duterte also defended the heads of the other organizing committees — Philippine Olympic Committee chief Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino and SEA Games Chef de Mission Butch Ramirez. Duterte said he has known Ramirez for a long time since his stint as Davao City mayor.
“I do not think [there is] corruption kasi ang mga head niyan [the heads], puro taga-gobyerno at [are from the government and are] men of integrity,” said Duterte.
However, the President is still disgruntled over the mistakes which led to the inconvenience of visiting athletes.
To avoid such lapses in the future, Duterte suggested that the military should take over preparations instead.
He argued that the blunders, such as allegedly failing to welcome the visitors at the airport, could have been lessened had the planning of the SEA Games been left to the “structural thinking” of the military.
“Itong mga ganito [These events] should be handled by military men. They are better organizers because the entire armed forces is one big organization and they are trained to be structural in thinking,” Duterte said.
“‘’Yung mga bagay na hindi mo makuha, ‘yan mahahagip ng military ‘yan, eventualities ‘yung mga ganoon [The military could have spotted those eventualities ahead]...Had I known I would have insisted. I will insist na [the] military to handle it, the planners of the military not the soldiers or infantry,” the President said.
He added that he is convinced these uniformed personnel were not capable of corrupt activities.
Duterte has often displayed his trust in the military throughout his term. Previously, he turned over the reins of several government agencies such as the Social Welfare department, Interior department and Environment department, among others to retired military officials. In April, he even warned about a possible “military takeover” of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport to iron out its operations, after it was dubbed one of the worst airports in the world.
“Itong mga military hindi masyadong ano sa corruption. ‘Pag sinabi mo magtrabaho ka at gawin mo ’yan…and the thing is fixed,” the President said.