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Makabayan bloc seeks probe into huge SEA Games budget

The Makabayan bloc has sought an investigation into the country’s hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games, which hiked the average budget of the Philippine Sports Commission to P5 billion, or more than 20 times its average.

The lawmakers made the call under their House Resolution 602 which directs the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability to probe, in aid of legislation, the controversies on the use of funds allocated to host the biennial meet.

“It is the primordial duty of the Congress, in the exercise of its legislative and oversight functions, to ensure that the people's money was utilized for the benefit of the Filipino people and not wasted due to government inefficiency and corruption,” the Makabayan bloc said.

“As legislators, it is one of our duties to promote full transparency in all government transactions, to look into the causes and results of successful and unsuccessful projects and programs implemented by the executive and to help the government learn from its mistakes in pursuance of efficient service delivery for the people,” the group added.

The Makabayan bloc listed a number of red flags, which include:

  • the grant of a P388-million contract to Filipino-Malaysian joint venture L.C. Ting Construction and WSL-MSC for the supply of the SEA Games Information System, even if the Filipinos involved in the venture have no experience in information technology and games management;
  • the construction of a P50-million cauldron in New Clark City which was lit during the entire SEA Games hosting;
  • the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee's (PHISGOC) asking the PSC to sponsor Filipino athletes' sportswear worth P59.2 million;
  • the transfer of P1.5 billion from the SEA Games budget to the PHISGOC as financial assistance, of which P700 million was spent on broadcast  expenses, talent fees, ocular  site visits, special meetings, workshops and  training, gametime medical requirements, fixtures, and other operating expenses, while the remaining P800 million is yet to be spent;
  • making WRC Construction workers work round-the-clock to install 1,000 21 capacity bleachers and roofs and to finish the painting of skating ramp;
  • the leg injuries and skull fractures suffered by Richard Delos Santos, a construction worker who lost his balance due to heavy rainfall and fell while taking down the scaffolding around the Rizal Stadium;
  • the Malaysian firm MTD's shouldering the P8.51-billion construction cost of the sports facilities in New Clark City under a joint venture agreement with Bases and Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) when the upgrade of Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila would only cost P1.2 billion; and
  • Congress’ allocation of P3.9 billion for the Maintenance and Operating Expenses of New Clark City and P9.5 billion for the construction of sports facilities in the National Government Administrative Center under the  2019 budget of the BCDA, among others.

Ombudsman Samuel Martires announced three days ago that his office is already probing the organizers of the 30th SEA Games in Manila, including allies of President Rodrigo Duterte, over allegations of corruption.

The Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee is headed by Speaker Alan Cayetano and some individuals from the private sector.

Cayetano said that he is ready to face the Ombudsman's investigation.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said he trusts his ally Cayetano and that he does not believe allegations of corruption against him in relation to the hosting of the biennial event.

Manila's hosting of the biennial meet was initially marred by logistical problems of athletes being not able to secure their hotel rooms, as well as shabby food and transport services.

The Philippines, however, emerged as the emphatic overall winner in the biennial meet with 149 gold medals—toppling its 113 gold medal haul when Manila last hosted the SEA Games in 2005. — BM, GMA News