‘Peace be with you’: Cayetano hits back at critics for calling him out on SEA Games snafu

Screengrab from SEA Games closing speech video. <i>Photo: Gabriel Yuson / YouTube</I>
Screengrab from SEA Games closing speech video. Photo: Gabriel Yuson / YouTube

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano officially closed the 30th edition of the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games last night with a lengthy speech that concluded with him passive-aggressively offering “peace” to critics who have called him out for his management of the event, which was funded by taxpayer money.

Read: Really? REALLY?: PHISGOC wins totally legit ‘Best SEA Games Organizer’ award

Cayetano’s 13-minute speech was far from modest, describing his team’s management of the games as being of “world-class quality.” The chair of the organizing committee added the Philippines broke many records, including being “the biggest SEA Games ever with 56 sports and 530 events.”

He continued to brag by claiming, without citing his source, that this edition was “the most-viewed SEA Games” in history.

That’s when Cayetano sought to take what, for him, passes as the “high road.”

“For those of you who did not believe; for those of you who said this could not be done,” he began, “for those of you who said this stadium will not be built on time; for those of you who said, ‘It’s a waste of money, we should not have hosted it’; for all who spread fake news, what I can say to you, and you can set this in stone: peace be with you.”

Read: SEA Games roundup: Footballer hospitalized for peanut allergy | toilet twinsies divided | Cayetano faces the music

But Cayetano’s magnanimous closing remarks won’t be the end of his involvement in the scandal-plagued SEA Games saga. Earlier this week, Ombudsman Samuel Martires told reporters in Manila that he had created a fact-finding panel to look into the possible mismanagement of the SEA Games’ funds. Martires assured the public that Cayetano and the other organizers will be included in the investigation, as would anyone who handled the games’ PHP6 billion (US$118.3 million) budget.

“If sufficient evidence is found, we will be pushed to file a case against those officials involved in this alleged corruption,” Martires told reporters.

Meanwhile, the curtains closed on the games with the Philippines racking up a record-breaking haul of 387 medals, winning 149 golds, 117 silvers, and 121 bronzes. The underdog athlete contingent from tiny Timor-Leste — who captured Filipinos’ hearts over the course of the games — finished at the bottom of the medal tally, but did manage to head home with six medals: one silver and five bronzes.

Read: Filipinos cheering for medal-less Timor-Leste to score SEA Games win

President Rodrigo Duterte said earlier this week that he will be offering cash bonuses to winning athletes — PHP250,000 (US$5,000) to gold medalists, PHP150,000 (US$3,000) for silver, and PHP100,000 (US$2,000) for bronze. That’s on top of the at least PHP10 million (US$196,500) in bonuses that lawmakers last week pledged to raise from their own January salaries to give to gold medal-winners.
Under Republic Act 10699, or the Sports Benefits and Incentives Act of 2001, Filipino medalists are already entitled to rewards of up to PHP300,000 (US$5,900).

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