MANILA -- The organizers of the 30th Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) said Thursday that the state spending for the Philippines’ hosting of the regional sports competition is all accounted for and complies with Commission on Audit (COA) rules.
Ramon Suzara, chief operating officer of the Philippine South East Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) made this assurance as he decried Senator Panfilo Lacson’s statement erroneously comparing the manner of spending done for the country’s hosting of the SEAG to the multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam.
Suzara noted that the funds spent by the PHISGOC for the SEA Games cannot be compared to the shameless pork barrel racket perpetrated by businesswoman Janet Napoles, who used so-called private foundations to siphon state funds to ghost projects.
“Every centavo spent by PHISGOC (was) used for the benefit of the athletes and to ensure the Philippines’ successful hosting of the SEA Games,” he said. “Senator Lacson is welcome to inspect the world-class facilities and other requirements that were prepared for this year’s SEA Games so that he can see for himself how the funds were prudently spent by the organizers.”
He issued the statement in response to Lacson’s allegation that the transfer of PHP1.5 billion in public funds to PHISGOC, a private foundation, was questionable and could be compared to Napoles’ pork barrel scam.
Suzara said while PHISGOC is a private foundation, 80 percent of its members come from the government. Both the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) are well-represented in the committee.
He also recalled that during the Senate plenary deliberations on the PSC budget, House of Representatives Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, who chairs PHISGOC, provided senators with a breakdown of the PHP1.5 billion fund.
Suzara also noted that it was Lacson himself who said Cayetano had assured senators that the committee consulted COA every step of the way in spending funds for the SEA Games.
PHISGOC’s job of overseeing the preparations for the SEA Games is nothing new, he said, as this was the same strategy done when the Philippines hosted the SEA Games in 2005. Other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) members also formed organizing committees to oversee the preparations of the sports event in their countries.
Suzara said Lacson might have forgotten that due to the delay in the approval of the 2019 national budget, PHISGOC had to race against time to procure the necessary equipment and other requirements for the SEA Games.
“The 2019 budget was only signed into law by the President in April because Congress was unable to approve the budget bill on time. This gave the government less than six months to procure all that was needed to ensure the Philippines’ seamless hosting of the SEA Games,” he said.
While Cayetano recommended to the President that the procurement be done by the Department of Budget and Management, PHISGOC had no choice but to do part of this job because of the lack of time, Suzara said.
“It takes several months to get things moving in compliance with procurement rules before either the DBM or PSC can bid out contracts. We had less than six months to mobilize to ensure that the SEA Games would push through,” he said.
Suzara said PHISGOC is ready to face any investigation or post-audit of the spending done for the SEA Games, as earlier made clear by Cayetano.
He also welcomed the suggestion of Albay Rep. Joey Salceda for the Senate to conduct the legislative inquiry to ensure that it would be impartial and transparent. (PR)