Gross incompetence

By: Artchil B. Fernandez

The Philippines this week is once again the talk of the region when the athletes from its neighbors started to arrive for the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games. The avalanche of glitches and miscues, as well as some unfinished venues, drew sharp criticisms from Filipinos and a deluge of complaints from participating countries.

The Cambodian football team waited four hours for their buses to arrive and when they did, they brought them to the wrong hotel. Finally arriving at their assigned hotel, the rooms were not ready forcing the players to sleep on the floor. The pictures made rounds on social media.

The football team of Thailand complained about the unpreparedness of the venue of their practice and the bad facilities, forcing the players to change clothes on the field. The team also noted the limited food given to them. Muslims athletes were also served pork.

Running out of patience due to the numerous troubles they encountered, Singapore’s Chef De Mission Juliana Seow wrote to the Philippine organizing committee to “act immediately” on the logistical issues which can affect their athletes in the competition. “We request for your urgent and immediate attention to these matters. While we try our best to be patient and understanding, we cannot make any compromise when our athletes are affected directly. We implore you to address these situations now and we look forward to seeing positive action from your side,” Seow appealed to Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) chief operating officer Ramon Suzara. Her letter was published in newspapers in Singapore.

How did the Philippines get into this mess?

Brunei is supposed to host the 30th edition of the SEA Games but begged off saying its facilities cannot handle an event this big. The Philippines offered to host it. When the Marawi siege happened in 2017, Du30 decided not to pursue the plan. Then Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano persuaded Du30 not to give up the hosting and maneuvered to have himself appointed as chair of the organizing committee.

Cayetano organized a private foundation, PHISGOC which he also heads to handle the preparation and supervision of the games. Of the P7.5 billion budget for the games, P1.5 billion was channeled to PHISGOC. While a private foundation is allowed to do this by the rules, as a matter of propriety, Cayetano should not have chaired PHISGOC since this made him (a government official) also a recipient of government funds.

Fortunately for Cayetano but bad for the country, he also became Speaker of the House.  He is now handling two huge responsibilities, overseeing the preparations for the SEA Games and leading the House. This is a recipe for disaster (from a management perspective) and this showed when the athletes started arriving in the country.

In an effort to deflect the blame for the mess, Cayetano charged the Senate for the delay in the preparations of the games with the late approval of the 2019 national budget. The Senate quickly pointed out that what delayed the approval is the padding of the national budget with pork-barrel by the House.

But the blunders are too glaring to ignore. Even Du30, who was in Busan, South Korea, expressed his displeasure for the embarrassment suffered by the country. His spokesman Panelo said that “if those involved are from the government, that’s incompetence.  If there is incompetence, there is corruption,” he said.

Stung by widespread criticisms, Cayetano tried to justify his gross incompetence by saying other countries who hosted big sports events also have problems. PHISGOC claimed the blunders were isolated. They then attacked the media for promoting negativism.

Blaming the messenger is the usual excuse of people who refuse not only to accept responsibility for their actions but a crude attempt to gloss them over. The media simply reports the facts. If the organizing committee is doing something good, this is reflected in the reports. If they are committing terrible mistakes, media has the obligation to report them, not to cover them up with lies.

Appeal to fake nationalism only aggravates the situation. Cayetano and company accused those who criticized their incompetence as anti-Filipino and having no love for the country.  Classic crab-mentality they cried.

Love of country does not mean being blind to the abuse, incompetence, corruption and misdeeds of the leaders of the land. This is the line of autocrats from Hitler to Stalin, down to Trump and Du30. They demand absolute obedience, blind and unquestioning loyalty. Any criticism is equated with disloyalty and branded as treason. Fanaticism not only ushered in dictatorship and authoritarian rule but also led to horrific tragedies like the mass suicide of Jim Jones and his followers.

It is exactly because one loves his or her country that he/she is critical of the actions of the leaders, particularly acts that embarrass and put the country to shame. Holding these leaders accountable for their ineptness and bad behavior prevents the country from being placed in a bad light. People like Cayetano who enjoys the perks of power and paid by taxpayers’ money should not give the country a black eye before the international community with their clumsiness and gross incompetence. It is not only a right but an obligation of any well-meaning citizen to demand accountability from them. This is genuine love of country.

Paid trolls in overdrive attacking those who do their duty as responsible citizens by holding Cayetano and company accountable for their disgusting incompetence and irresponsibility cannot save them. Media in the neighboring countries have reported their blunders and incompetence. Fake news cannot repair their destroyed reputation.