De Lima: Probe P387-M SEA Games debts
Detained Sen. Leila de Lima on Friday said the failure of a private group led by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano to pay P387 million to contractors in the country’s hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in 2019 should prompt the Senate to investigate the issues that marred the regional sports event.
“The SEA Games organizing committee was able to allocate an exorbitant amount during the opening of the biennial sports meet, but apparently they don’t have [the] budget to pay the suppliers?” De Lima said in her usual handwritten statement.
“Why did it happen? This incident should not be disregarded. It should be investigated to determine if there was irregularity in the use of public funds,” she said.
De Lima issued the remarks two days after Guillermo Iroy Jr., executive director of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), told the Senate that the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee (Phisgoc), which Cayetano chaired, had yet to settle P387 million in services and equipment that various suppliers provided during the 11-nation sports competition.
At the Senate budget hearing on Tuesday, Iroy said Phisgoc had asked the PSC to have the Department of Budget and Management release the funds to settle Phisgoc’s debts.
But Phisgoc president Ramon Suzara denied Iroy’s claim and clarified that the foundation only received P1.481 billion of the P6-billion budget for the SEA Games.
De Lima said the PSC official’s admission should move her colleagues to act on Senate Resolution No. 274, which she filed last year, following allegations of irregularities as well as logistical problems in the country’s fourth hosting of the biennial sports event.
“We need to ensure that support and funding are given to the agencies that have proper mandate, and that accountability lies even with private organizations, especially those who have access to government resources. We cannot let this happen again,” De Lima said.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon had questioned the role of Phisgoc, which was incorporated as a private foundation in 2018, before the country’s hosting of the SEA Games from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11, 2019.
President Duterte himself had ordered an investigation of Phisgoc for alleged corruption before the games kicked off after the foundation was accused of purchasing overpriced uniforms, training gear and even socks.
The investigation, however, never got off the ground after Duterte said in a speech that he was “sure” that the Speaker was “not involved in corruption.”
During Tuesday’s hearing, Sen. Bong Go said he was surprised by Iroy’s admission and questioned why the PSC spent more than what it was allocated for the SEA Games.
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