The Daily Tribune’s management and Editorial Board on Wednesday took exception to outgoing Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano’s statement accusing the paper of allegedly spreading “fake news.”
He also alleged that Daily Tribune owner, Willie Fernandez, had engaged in a PR campaign detrimental to his management of the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
Cayetano used the august hall of the House of Representatives to lambast incoming Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, during the course of which he called the Tribune’s banner story “Velasco prevails as Speaker” published on Wednesday, 30 September, as “fake news.”
Cayetano did not dispute the content of the Tribune banner story but the timing of its publication, which he said should have been done after he had announced the result of President Duterte’s meeting with him, Velasco and several other members of the House on Tuesday night.
“In a matter of two minutes, when I was in the car after the meeting with the President, here comes the announcement about a new Speaker,” Cayetano said.
The Daily Tribune maintains good relations with its sources, including government officials and employees who provide its reporters with information, including “off the record” cuffs.
Last night’s meeting between the President and the legislators was a “fair” coverage even if reporters were not allowed to join due to the health protocols being imposed.
The Tribune Editorial Board also reiterated that the paper is privately owned. It does not have leanings as it stands by its motto of “Without Fear. Without Favor.”
The story Cayetano had questioned was also verified by its reporters from various sources, including those present in the meeting.
Mr. Fernandez also denounced Cayetano’s accusation that he besmirched the conduct of the 2019 SEA Games hosting.
Daily Tribune dedicated eight pages — in special paper — for the SEA Games coverage from 30 November to 11 December 2019 — the most among all leading national dailies.
The company even printed two magazines in support of the country’s hosting of the spectacle.
“Daily Tribune is neutral in all its activities. But in keeping up with our slogan of 20 years — ‘Without Fear. Without Favor’ — it will keep tab on stories of success and expose shenanigans, especially among public officials, because that is our vow to the Filipino,” Mr. Fernandez said.
Cayetano’s tirade may have stemmed from the various reports, which also came out in other media outlets, about the mismanagement of the SEA Games.
It was Cayetano, then still the Foreign Affairs Secretary, who convinced President Rodrigo Duterte to host the biennial meet for which he formed the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (Phisgoc).
He even lobbied that the SEA Games fund be lodged under the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), which he headed at the time.
His successor, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., however, disclosed that attempt and disagreed to be part of the scheme.
As Phisgoc chairman, Cayetano was also barred from receiving government funds being a government official. His team, however, found a way out of the situation by forming a Phisgoc Foundation with Cayetano not among its signatories.
The Phisgoc Foundation was designated as recipient of the P7-billion SEA Games fund from the government. Cayetano had asked for P9 billion from President Duterte.
Still, it was problematic. The Philippine Sports Commission and the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) had to work out a system for the government money to be used without questions.
President Rodrigo Duterte himself stressed that he doesn’t want to have a “foundation” dipping its fingers on the country’s SEA Games hosting, which has a budget of more than P6 billion of government money.
That statement of the President was recorded and aired by PTV, the government’s television network.
Then came the construction of the SEA Games tower at the New Clark City. It cost the government P55 million, including its design which was said to have been identical with the submitted design for the Centennial tower in 1998.
Confusion also marred the Phisgoc’s transactions, especially with the uniforms when it was found a set of competition uniform cost P51,511, more than half the P25,000 that Asics declared when it made a bid to supply in the 18th Asian Games last year.
Daily Tribune obtained a copy of the quotation that Phisgoc prepared and it showed that a polo shirt cost P5,150; roundneck shirt P2,480, track jacket P6,310; track pants P7,400; shorts P5,100; socks P2,700; backpack P3,190; running shoes P3,950; and cap P2,400.
Cayetano justified the amount, saying “these are all Olympic-quality.”
But the hosting was not.
Complaints quickly gathered steam even before the cauldron lit up.
The first few days of the SEA Games were marred with chaos as Phisgoc volunteers failed to pick up football players from the airport.
Booters from Timor Leste were made to wait for three hours at the airport while the Myanmar football team were placed in a cramped bus on their way to their hotel.
The Cambodians were made to sleep on the hotel floor after the Phisgoc failed to coordinate with their hotel while the Thai football team waited for hours after the organizers failed to process their ID and accreditation on time.
Even the home team wasn’t spared.
The national women’s football team were fed with kikiam, egg and rice for breakfast, hours before it opened its campaign.
During the tournament, complaints of slow release of results and mismanagement were aplenty, which did not commensurate with the massive budget that the government spent just to make the country’s hosting of the SEA Games a success.
Ten months after the biennial meet closed, Cayetano’s Phisgoc is yet to release its liquidation report to the Philippine Olympic Committee.
In the POC general assembly last Wednesday, POC director Clint Aranas pressed POC president Abraham Tolentino for the financial report, but all he said was that Phisgoc is still in the process of gathering the receipts and other proofs of purchase from various suppliers.