Duterte defends P50-M SEA Games cauldron

Sofia Tomacruz
Duterte defends P50-M SEA Games cauldron

Albert Alcain

Owing to its design by the late National Artist for Architecture Francisco Mañosa, the President claims it is impossible to estimate what an 'appropriate' cost would be since it is a 'product of the mind'

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte defended the P50-million cauldron that would be used for the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, attributing its high price to the fact that it was the creation of a national artist.

Duterte made the statement after Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon questioned the propriety of spending such an amount on a project that will only be used once, when there were so many other worthy projects with long-term impact – like classrooms – that needed funding.

“You know, there can never be corruption in that situation because you commissioned a national artist,” Duterte said in a press conference late Tuesday night, November 19, referring to the late National Artist for Architecture Francisco “Bobby” Mañosa.

Owing to its design by Mañosa, the President claimed it was impossible to estimate what an “appropriate” cost would be since it was a “product of the mind.”

“You cannot estimate how much nalugi ka (you lost) because it’s the rendition of the mind of the creator. Kung ‘yan singil niya sabihin niya ‘wag mo bilhin kung ayaw mo. ‘Yan ang presyo ko (If that is the price he is asking for, he will say don’t get it if you don’t like my price),” he said.

Duterte likened it to commissioning a painter who one “could not debate with” on the price of an artwork since it was the artist’s rendition.

“You impose what is big or small there, you begin to criticize the efforts of people there. Following the wishes of the person who made it and that person is valuable because he created something which you want to portray after,” he said.

Why this matters. The P50-million cauldron to be used for a torch lighting ceremony at the 30th SEA games has been under the scrutiny of lawmakers at the Senate. Drilon questioned the large expense for the object which would only be used once, as he pointed out the funds could have been used to build 50 classrooms instead.

“I am not even talking about overpricing. I’m talking about propriety,” Drilon said.

According to Drilon, the breakdown of costs for the cauldron is as follows:

  • P4.4 million for the design of the Mañosa
  • P13.4 million for the cost of the cauldron’s foundation
  • P32 million for the construction of the cauldron itself

Aside from the P50-million cauldron, the SEA Games’ budget continues to face questions in Congress with P1.5 billion worth of funds not undergoing public bidding and impractical spending. (READ: Why build P9.5-B New Clark when Rizal stadium upgrade costs P1.2B? – Drilon)

Justifying the expense: Like Duterte, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano defended the millions spent for the structure, saying it was a “work of art.”

Cayetano is the chairman of the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee (Phisgoc), a sort of private foundation led by government officials and specificially created to handle the games.

“While some people see it as a cauldron, we see a monument. We see the athletes, we see the burning flames that represent hope and the fighting spirit. We think it is just appropriate,” said Cayetano.

Drilon earlier said he will file a resolution after the SEA Games to ask for a Senate probe into the “extravagant” expenses. – Rappler.com

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.