MANILA – Opposition Sen. Leila de Lima has filed a resolution seeking to investigate alleged irregularities in the Philippines' recent hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games, saying if left unresolved, these issues could "translate to even greater problems" in the country's sports programs.
The Senate must investigate how public funds were spent for the biennial regional tournament after numerous reports of possible lapses in bidding, logistics and other issues, De Lima said in Senate Resolution No. 274 filed on December 16.
"While problems of disorganization, incompetence, and inefficiency can be resolved through institutional mechanisms, what cannot be countenanced is the scandalous probability that in the middle of all this disorganization and incompetence, certain high public officials still might have enriched themselves in the procurement of government contracts for the hosting of the games," the detained senator said.
Among issues De Lima wanted to probe was the transfer of P1.5 billion in public funds to the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC), a private foundation created to oversee preparations for the SEA Games.
"Such transfer of public funds to PHISGOC allowed them to circumvent our procurement laws as they were able to operate without having to undergo public bidding," she said.
The P50-million cauldron and the P9.5-billion athletics and aquatics facility in Capas, Tarlac should also be investigated to verify if it was financed by a Malaysian firm without undergoing public bidding, the lawmaker said.
"There is need to investigate the existing sports legislation to ensure that support and funding are given to the agencies that have the proper mandate and that accountability lies even with private organizations, especially those who have access to government resources," she said.
De Lima also collated a list of complaints reported by visiting athletes and the media, saying the following issues should be scrutinized by the Senate:
- Transportation delays experienced by teams from Cambodia, Myanmar, and Timor-Leste
- Accommodation issues raised by teams from Cambodia, Singapore and Timor-Leste
- Delayed, faulty media accreditation
- Delayed completion of sports facilities
- Complaints raised by volunteers
PHISGOC had apologized for such issues that cropped up even before the official start of the games.
De Lima noted that several issues were resolved not by SEA Games officials, but by other government agencies like the Department of Tourism and private entities which offered their services to arrange hotel bookings, provide additional buses and other amenities.
"As we celebrate our athletes’ most successful campaign in recent memory, it is likewise important for our government to scrutinize our performance both as a host country and as patrons to our athletes," she said.
The Office of the Ombudsman earlier formed a 7-member panel that would conduct a fact-finding investigation on alleged irregularities that marred the Philippines' fourth hosting of Southeast Asia's largest sports tournament.
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, who also chairs PHISGOC, said his chamber would go after "black propagandists" who peddled fake news about the SEA Games.