Probe sought into issues still hounding SEA Games 2019 facilities at New Clark City

November 11, 2020 - 7:36 PM
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SEA Games cauldron
The cauldron to be used in the torch lighting ceremony of the 30th Southeast Asian Games. (BCDA/Released)

Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday repeated her call to investigate the possible lapse in procedure in the construction of sports facilities in New Clark City, citing it as the best way to honor Filipino athletes.

In a privilege speech on Tuesday, Hontiveros raised perceived malpractice in the funding and construction of the facilities used during the country’s hosting of Southeast Asian Games in 2019.

The international event, which was also rife with logistical issues, was organized by the private foundation Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) which was led by Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano (Taguig-Pateros).

In a tweet on Wednesday, Hontiveros said her request to probe the supposed anomalies in the funding does not discredit the athletes who played in the venue.

“I celebrate our athletes and they are people of honor and dignity. And certainly, bilang mga kababayan natin, they would also not want such questions that have been raised by executive and constitutional bodies to remain unanswered,” the senator said in the video she attached in the posts.

She also reiterated the need to probe suspected traces of corruption.

“Papangit ba ang world-class facilities natin kung dumaan sa tamang process of bidding?” Hontiveros asked.

“That is why if there are any questions of corruption, I think the best way to honor our athletes is by making sure we clear any doubts about SEA Games corruption,” she added.

In a separate tweet on Tuesday, Hontiveros similarly stated the importance of investigating the P9.5 billion worth of loans used to build the SEA Games facilities at New Clark City located in Capas, Tarlac.

“Ang dami daw irregularities sa proseso,parang may matinding sabwatang naganap. Nakakahinayang.Sana nagamit ito laban sa COVID o ayuda para sa nasalanta ng #RollyPH,” her tweet read.

PHISGOC chair Cayetano, also the former House Speaker, responded to this call during a turnover ceremony on November 11.

“So, is PHISGOC open to any investigation? Yes. E bakit may mga masasakit na salita versus that. Because we’re open to investigation but we’re against witch hunts,” Cayetano was quoted as saying.

Allegations

Hontiveros speculated that the partnership between the Bases Conversion and Development Authority and the MTD Capital Berhad, a Malaysian infrastructure developer, might be “fake.” She also claimed that this joint venture signals that it is backed by a “behest loan from a government bank.”

“Kinuha ng BCDA sa bulsa taumbayan ang pambayad sa mga Malaysian developer. Kung susuriin ang 2019 budget, binigyan ng DBM ang BCDA ng 9.54 bilyong piso para bayaran ang utang ng MTD Berhad. Then, what is this supposed joint venture for…when BCDA paid the amount to MTD using public funds appropriated in the 2019 national budget?” she said.

The senator also questioned the use of these facilities now that the SEA Games activities are over.

“At ano ang nabili ng taumbayan sa 9.5 Bilyon na kinuha sa ating mga bulsa? Isang sports center na isang buwan pa lamang ginamit at malamang, hanggang sa ngayon ay ginagastusan pa natin ng maintenance. Hindi kaya magiging “white elephant” ang mga facilities na ito?” she said.

Hontiveros was not the first to question the irregularities in the project’s financing.

Last October, Diego Magpantay of the Citizens Crime Watch Association Inc. sued BCDA President Vince Dizon, MTD Capital Berhad Director Isaac David, and other people over alleged graft and malversation of public funds for these sports facilities.

In 2019, the Commission on Audit also questioned the BCDA for its approval of the P8.5-billion sports facilities project despite it giving undue advantage to a private contractor.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon in November last year likewise questioned the construction of the P50 million giant cauldron which was then yet to be used in the SEA Games opening. This was placed at the entrance of the athletic stadium in New Clark City.

BCDA’s response

Amid the new call to conduct a probe into the corruption allegations hounding the SEA Games facilities, BCDA denied irregularities in the joint agreement it entered with the MTD Capital Berhad.

“There was no undue advantage accorded to MTD Capital Berhad as its unsolicited proposal underwent a rigorous negotiation process and a Competitive Challenge. The joint venture agreement between BCDA and MTD passed the scrutiny of applicable Philippine laws, rules and regulations,” part of its statement read.

Meanwhile, Sen. Pia Cayetano, the sister of PHISGOC chair Alan Peter, expressed her outrage over Hontiveros’ call for an investigation into SEA Games corruption, despite admitting not hearing the latter’s entire speech.

“May I ask her honor if she has seen the place? Because the national track and field team, when they visited before the Southeast Asian Games commenced, they went there for the first time, does her honor know that they cried when they saw the stadium?” Pia asked her colleague.

Some watchers found Cayetano’s reaction more than necessary.

“What an inappropriate reaction! You don’t deny corruption by invoking sad stories of our athletes, you address the allegation right on,” one Twitter user said.

PHISGOC, meanwhile, defended the construction of the SEA Games facilities and assured the public of full accountability and transparency with the budget used.
In a report of ABS-CBN, Ramon Suzara, PHISGOC chief operating officer, said the foundation submitted for liquidation 91% of the 1.48 billion financial support they received from Philippine Sports Commission.
He also reportedly said the foundation only received P1.48B budget for the SEA Games, a portion of the P6B total budget.