There are two schools of thought on how a politician should respond when there is an overwhelming call for his head: standing firm, shifting the blame, and lashing out at everyone in sight; or apologizing, taking your lumps, and keeping your head down until it hopefully all blows over.
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano appears to have chosen the latter, with photos appearing on Facebook of the politician purporting to show him owning up to foreign representatives for embarrassing shortcomings in the organization of this year’s Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
Photographs of Cayetano, who heads the organizing committee for the games, appeared on the event’s official social media accounts showing him smiling, shaking hands with foreign athletes and coaches, and generally appearing to try to make amends.
The posts say that Cayetano “personally visited the athletes from participating countries in the 30th SEA games including the teams of Timor Leste, Myanmar, Cambodia, Singapore, and Brunei and apologized for some inconveniences caused by the delayed transport and accommodation, but assured them that the Philippine hosting will be great and meaningful for everyone.”
The lawmaker’s mug appeared online after he came under a withering barrage of criticism for what appeared to be a highly disorganized lead-up to the games. For instance, a leader from the Thai national team told Thai sports site SmmSport that the Filipino organizers were unable to arrange for their transport from the airport in Pasay City to one of the venues in Clark in Pampanga province, a drive of at least two hours.
They also said the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila, another venue, was not completely finished and some parts were still under construction. Meanwhile, photos that were published by the same website and posted to its Facebook page showed the dismal state of the Biñan Football Stadium, where the Thai football team has to practice.
Meanwhile, ASEAN Football News reported that the Timor Leste football team was left stranded at the airport for hours. When their bus arrived, they were taken to the wrong hotel. The Myanmar football team also had to wait for hours for their bus to pick them up from the airport.
The Cambodian delegation, meanwhile, was reportedly left to sleep on the floor of a hotel conference room after arriving early in the morning because they had to wait until 2pm before they could check in to their rooms.
The series of unfortunate events didn’t just affect the foreign delegates. Even the Filipino women’s football team had to wait for hours before they could check in to their hotel rooms. According to a Facebook post written by one of their members, Hali Long, they were also told that as many as five athletes had to share a single room.
Naturally, netizens were incensed at the embarrassing reception, and have turned their ire on Cayetano.
The congressman, however, proved distinctly less conciliatory than he did with the foreign teams, telling local critics to keep their thoughts to themselves, lest they make the Philippines look bad.
“The Philippines is hosting this… my recommendation is, don’t criticize us,” the lawmaker told CNN Philippines. “If you criticize us, it’s the Philippines that’s going to be embarrassed. You can do that after the games.”
Cayetano’s handling of the SEA Games has been the subject of heaps of public scorn ever since it was revealed that the cauldron built to contain the ceremonial flame at this month’s games came with an astounding PHP50 million (US$981,200) price tag, which the congressman defended by saying it was a “work of art.”