If Pope Francis bestowed on himself the “Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice” award or even the highest papal award, the “Supreme Order of Christ,” it wouldn’t be right.
Well, that seems to be the case with the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organising Committee (PHISGOC) receiving the “Best SEA Games Organizer” award on Dec. 3 at glitzy ceremonies in Manila.
Filipinos were surprised by how fast the committee received the accolade, just on the fourth day of the sports competition and after the dismal last-minute gaffes and the controversial business deals were still fresh in people’s minds.
A close look at the award and the award-giving body reveals yet another controversy.
The award-giving body that awarded the committee is called the Sports Industry Awards and Conference (SPIA) whose website admits that it “is endorsed and supported by various government entities.”
“This year, the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) Philippines endorses and supports SPIA Asia,” it reads “Further, SPIA Asia is likewise supported by the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee,” it added.
The lead role of the organizing committee and the Tourism Promotions Board in SPIA Asia could be gleaned on the website, with both taxpayer-supported bodies’ logos featured prominently and bearing the words “endorsed by PHISGOC” and “presenting partner TPB.”
The SPIA Asia, however, did not disclose how much is the amount or cost of the sponsorship and support coming from the TPB or PHISGOC.
Neither have the TPB and PHISGOC disclose the amounts they paid to SPIA Asia.
The state-run Philippine News Agency reported that “SPIA chief executive officer Eric Gottschalk personally handed the award to PhHISGOC chairman Alan Peter Cayetano and PHISGOC chief operating officer Ramon Suzara.”
Interestingly, that is the same PHISGOC chief operating officer Suzara who leads the list of SPIA Asia “speakers and judges” as listed in the SPIA website.
In the list of 2019 winners, both the PHISGOC or Southeast Asian Games 2019 are not mentioned.
Neither is there any category for “Best SEA Games Organizer”.
Reacting to the award, the popular blogger Professional Heckler tweeted: “How can you be the ‘Best SEA Games Organizer’ when you’re the only SEA Games organizer? It’s like saying 2018’s best Miss Universe winner is Miss Universe winner Catriona Gray!”
Filipinos have not given up assailing the PHISGOC and the Philippine government handling of the regional competitions, even as they express support to Filipino athletes competing in the Games.
On Dec. 4, the Sandugo alliance of tribal people released a copy of an eviction letter sent to Aeta minorities inhabiting portions of what is now known as New Clark City, one of the Games venues.
The eviction letter dated Nov. 29 gave the Aetas “seven days” to vacate the land they occupy.
Written in Filipino, the letter said: “We wish to inform you that the land on which your house or structure is erected and which you cultivate at Barangay Aranguren, Capas, Tarlac is a property of the government and under the administration of the Bases Conversion Development Authority in accordance with Republic Act 7227.
“As per the consultation done by BCDA staff in your community, the land where you reside or which you cultivate is set to be used by the government for a project for the greater good and for the development of the country — the New Clark City.”
The letter added: “Because of this and as a humane act, we are giving you seven (7) days from the date you receive this letter to coordinate with this office and to submit the required documents, and to likewise voluntarily leave the area and to demolish the structures you may have built, to give way to the immediate implementation of the said project of government.”
The forcible displacement of communities of Aetas marked the initial stages of the construction of what was billed as the main stadium of the SEA Games.
Aeta organizations and their advocates have condemned the government for selling out their land to big businesses behind the stadium construction.
While the government has portrayed the new stadium at New Clark City as “world class” and “Class A,” only two events of the SEA Games would be held there.
To the surprise of the public, the PHISGOC rented the Philippine Arena from the Iglesia ni Cristo as venue of the SEA Games opening ceremonies.
PHISGOC did not disclose how much was the cost of the rental of the Philippine Arena.
The lighting of the controversial US$1-million cauldron located at the New Clark City stadium was thus pre-taped and pre-recorded, and then the video shown at the end of the SEA Games opening ceremonies held at the Philippine Arena.
In the Games’ opening ceremonies, the words “Kyrie eleison” or “Lord Have Mercy” were set to tribal peoples’ music.
The irony is not lost on the Aetas and to many people who watched.
Tonyo Cruz is a Filipino blogger, newspaper columnist, and convener of the media and arts alliance Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of LICAS News.