MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte's personal ties to House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano will not affect an upcoming investigation on the problems besetting the Southeast Asian Games, which the lawmaker helped organize, Malacañang said Thursday.
Cayetano, Duterte's defeated running mate in the 2016 elections, heads the private entity that led preparations for the SEA Games that was criticized for unfinished game venues, inadequate meals served to athletes, and transportation delays, among others.
The snafus "do not sit well" with the President, who wants to investigate the issue as soon as the games wrap up, said his spokesperson Salvador Panelo.
Asked how Duterte's friendship with Cayetano would affect the credibility of the probe, Panelo said: "Wala naman iyon. Given the character of this President, wala naman ditong kai-kaibigan e."
(That's nothing. Given the character of this President, there's no friendship issue here.)
"He fires people close to him. 'Pag may (if there is) irregularity, graft, corruption, he will be accountable," the Palace official added.
Panelo said he also told British broadcaster BBC on Wednesday that reported woes in the SEA Games are "not as bad as you picture it to be" and that "many" complaints turned out to be false, including the supposed street food snack given to athletes.
"The best thing to here is and'yan na 'yan so punuan natin ang pagkukulang (let's fill up the shortcoming)... The country's image and pride are at stake so let's pool our resources together," he added, addressing the public.
Cayetano, chairman of the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Committee, earlier said other countries also encountered problems with hosting the regional event and that athletes should expect better service in the coming days.
The Speaker also claimed that opposition Sen. Franklin Drilon is "partly to blame" for the delay in the approval of the SEA Games budget, which the latter denied.
This marks the Philippines' fourth hosting of the biennial event that opens Saturday.
For more stories on the SEA Games, visit this page: https://news.abs-cbn.com/seagames2019.