Issue of December 8, 2019
     
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The South East Asian Games

The opening ceremony of the South East Asian Games was ostentatious alright, but it was well deserved. It was an elegant demonstration of showmanship that had a feel of the past, an excitement for the present and an expectation for the future. It was a fitting opening to an international event that only happens every two years. It was a show like never before seen on our shores. It was a display of crafstmanship by our artists who proved once and for all that the Philippines can stage a world-class event that we can all be proud of. So, what’s the problem with that?

Some senators say that the organizing committee of the South East Asian Games overspent its budget. They say that the expenses incurred do not justify the holding of the event in our country. That, it is a gross injustice to the Filipinos that instead of spending the hard-earned money to build classrooms and health facilities, it was spent for the construction of sports venues, an overpriced cauldron and luxurious quarters for athletes who are only here on a transient basis. They ask: “What will happen to all of these after the games? What contingency plans were placed to have these facilities benefit the Filipinos in the future?”

One senator even dared to compare how the budget of the biennial event is like the Napoles scam where some legislators channeled their priority development assistance funds to bogus non-government corporations and non-existent projects. Then, he made a proposal to indict the leadership of the organizing committee by holding them accountable in a legislative investigation right in the midst of the competition. Good thing House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano was able to dissuade the detractors to postpone the investigation after the event, if only to spare the nation of the embarrassment it may be exposed to. And so, we are on with the games.

As if on cue, Philippine athletes romped away with several gold medals right on the very first day of the meet. The successive days were no different. They garnered medals on all events, making each and every Filipino happy. For once, we are trouncing our neighbors in a major sports competition that we could only dominate in our dreams. We are winning as one. In fact, the euphoria is so high that the success of our athletes is being compared to a miracle. Finally, God is on our side. Can’t our politicians see this? Can’t they appreciate that the sponsoring of this event is unifying our people? Can’t they feel the sentiment of the Filipino athlete who is shedding his blood, sweat and tears to gain honor and glory for the country? What politics has not given to us by way of satisfaction, sports is. This is why the celebration of the South East Asian Games right here in our own backyard is truly significant as it is endearing.

The accusation of over-spending and corruption may be a real issue. Whether or not it is true it must be something that must be looked into. Yes, it is a legitimate concern. It deserves an investigation. After all, it is people’s money that is on the line. However, this can wait. There is a time for it. Not now, not in next few days. Let our people savor the sweet smell of victory and let them unite in the achievements of the Filipino athletes.

Oh yes, lest we forget, this is just the South East Asian Games, a regional competition where only the athletes from South East Asia participate. There are only 11 countries vying for medals for their respective flags and countries. The impact that a victory will entail in this kind of event is far from that of the Olympics or that of the Asian Games where powerhouse countries like China, Japan and Korea are enlisted. Yet, it remains a major sports competition recognized by international sports bodies as a qualifying event for bigger and larger international sports competitions. Besides, the South East Asian Games also boasts of world-class competitors who could give the best athletes of the world a run for their money.

So, leave it be. Put politics and sports where both belong. Let the South East Asian Games be an avenue for fair and honest competition. Let not the allegation of corruption blot out its meaning. A sports competition such as the South East Asian Games does not happen very often. Other countries who sponsored it in the past have spent more than what our country did without much ado about politicking. If we continually put a damp on the game’s glamour and importance, the Philippines may not be given another chance to sponsor it in the near future. This will not be a good omen for our athletes, our people and our country.

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