Malacañang today decried the spread of “fake news” about the country’s hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games which sowed confusion that spurred a public outcry.
“Let the games continue without the attendant raucous bashing,” Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
“Our local athletes deserve our support. Let us welcome our foreign guests with the kind of warm hospitality we are known for,” he added.
Panelo asked the public “to be more circumspect in reading articles that may contain false information or fake news.”
“Let us not believe them outright. Many of them turn out to be untrue,” he noted.
The President’s spokesman also called on media organizations to avoid reporting false information.
“We call on media outfits to be more prudent in their reporting and avoid publishing information without verification, as allegations are remembered, not their clarifications or justifications,” Panelo stressed.
Several media outfits have been slammed, particularly by the Duterte administration supporters, for publishing news, which later turned out to be false information.
For instance, the supposed serving of street food “kikiam” to the Philippine women’s football team for breakfast.
The WhiteWoods Hotel, where the said football team is billeted, has later clarified that it was chicken sausage, not kikiam, that was served to them.
A statement from WhiteWoods Hotel re: the kikiam issue, among others.
“We can say, in all honesty and with conviction, that the Philippines did not feed its athletes only Kikiam for the SEA Games, and we want to put an end to the circulation of this wrong information.” pic.twitter.com/F3m8gNlCCB
— Camille B. Naredo (@camillenaredo) November 27, 2019
Some government officials have also slammed reporters for publishing photos of “unfinished” SEA Games venues.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer who made an error in reporting has apologized for the mistake.
The said media outfit has issued an erratum on November 26 for a photo of an unfinished football stadium incorrectly identified as the Biñan Football Stadium, a SEA Games venue.
The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) said the newly-restored track and field oval and the multi-purpose Arena at the PhilSports Complex in Pasig City, which was reported incomplete, are now ready for the 30th SEA Games.
The PSC also dubbed as fake news the video clip shared by ABS-CBN reporter Angel Movido showing a cubicle with two toilets inside a women’s bathroom in one of the SEA Games venues.
Movido tweeted on November 25 that she took the video at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.
When the video on the twin toilets got criticized on social media, the PSC shared its version of the bathroom.
“Photo on the left was taken while the facility was under renovation. Photo on the right is actual photo taken today, November 27 of the said comfort room at Ninoy Aquino Stadium,” the PSC said on November 27.
Movido later corrected her tweet, saying the venue where she took the video was at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium, which is part of the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex.
Erratum: The twin toilet bowls are located inside the women's comfort room of the Ninoy Aquino Stadium, one of the facilities found in the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex (RMSC). The Ninoy Aquino Stadium is the official venue for the SEA Games' Taekwondo and Weightlifting events.
— Angel Movido (@angelmovido) November 27, 2019
Citing Engr. Manny Salazar, Movido said the two-toilet cubicle was larger and originally intended for persons with disabilities (PWDs).
“The cubicle where the two toilets were found, is larger and originally intended for PWDs, according to Engr. Manny Salazar,” the reporter wrote.
“Salazar assured measures are being done to make the toilets suitable for public use,” she added.
The cubicle where the two toilets were found, is larger and originally intended for PWDs, according to Engr. Manny Salazar. Salazar assured measures are being done to make the toilets suitable for public use.
— Angel Movido (@angelmovido) November 27, 2019
The PSC has also called the photos of the Philippine flag allegedly being used as a table skirt in one of the SEA Games venues as “fake.”
“Upon investigating the alleged PH flag used as mantle for the catering, the said FB (Facebook) posting was found to be malicious and fake news,” PSC Executive Director Guillermo Iroy said.
“We appreciate constructive criticism, but we deplore the fake news that came out just to create public outrage,” he added.
The photos reportedly came from a certain Albert Papina who posted them on Facebook on November 25.
However, Papina did not mention the source of the photos.
“Look at how Filipinos desecrated the national symbol—our flag. Nobody even bothers to undo this irreverence. Something is wrong with the Filipinos,” part of the caption read.
Former reporter of ABS-CBN Ricky Velasco made a screenshot of this post and claimed it was taken in one of the SEA Games venues.
When it blew up, Velasco turned his account into private mode.
But some social media users were able to screenshot his tweet.
— Alison Pereira (@AlisonPereiraPH) November 26, 2019
For its part, the ABS-CBN News said Velasco retired from the network in 2015.
It also reminded its reporters to follow guidelines on social media to avoid spreading false information.
“ABS-CBN News has social media guidelines and gatekeeping layers to prevent erroneous and misleading posts. Mr. Velasco’s post did not go through any of these processes. ABS-CBN News does not spread disinformation,” part of its statement read.
Malacañang to conduct inquiry on SEA Games issues
Meanwhile, Panelo said Malacañang would still conduct an investigation into the SEA Games mishaps, which range from foreign and local athletes having to wait for hours at airports or hotel lobbies to supposedly inadequate food provided to athletes.
He said the probe would be separate from that of the Senate.
“An array of criticisms has been made on how PHISGOC (Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee) has handled the logistics of this momentous event, and these should be accepted and considered in order to rectify the errors it has committed. The critics have a point. There is indeed something wrong with the preparations,” Panelo said.
“The Office of the President will also be conducting a separate probe on the aberrations and irregularities in the administration of our country’s hosting of the SEA Games immediately after the games,” he added.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier expressed dismay about the 2019 SEA Games fiasco.
He said he wanted a probe into why these things happened.
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, who chairs the PHISGOC, said he is willing to face all investigations that would look into lapses and anomalies in the country’s hosting of the international sporting event.
“That’s why in front of you, brothers and sisters, I’d like to tell you: December 12, hold me accountable. Hold the SEA Games organizing committee (accountable) at hindi ako magtatago,” Cayetano said as he faced members of the Philippine National Prayer Breakfast today.
“Because you know, sa akin naman ‘yong paghaharap sa kanila, advance lang ‘yan. Kasi ang Diyos, isang araw, haharap din tayo sa Diyos,” he added.
Cayetano said he did not pocket any public funds as PHISGOC chair.
He again blamed the delay of the passage of the 2019 budget for the controversies surrounding the country’s hosting of SEA Games.
“There’s news today and sabi ni Senator (Panfilo) Lacson para daw [Janet] Napoles [pork barrel scam]. Sabi din ni Senator (Franklin) Drilon, ‘yong ‘kaldero ni Cayetano.’ I’m willing to have a lie detector test, kaming tatlo,” he said.
“And I can look anyone in the eye (and say) ni singko, wala kaming kinita dito sa SEA Games. Abonado pa nga kami eh, dahil sa mga nangyari,” he added.
Cayetano, who was personally appointed by the President himself as PHISGOC chair, also decried that the media is only focusing on the shortcomings of the SEA games.
“Am I upset because sobrang dami ng fake news? Yes. Can I make light of it? Yes. I can make light of it but it was painful,” he said.
Cayetano earlier visited the foreign teams who experienced transportation, accommodation, and other logistical issues even before the formal opening of the SEA Games to personally apologize to them.
He assured them that the Philippine hosting will be great and meaningful for everyone.
Aside from the food, accommodation, and transportation woes, PHISGOC officials are also being questioned on the cost of the P55-million cauldron.
The Philippines will be hosting the SEA Games from November 30 to December 11.