The probe would include Cayetano despite President Duterte’s recent pronouncement that he does not think the Speaker is involved in alleged corruption of the SEA Games fund., File
Ombudsman starts probe on SEA Games funds
Elizabeth Marcelo (The Philippine Star) - December 10, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Days before the conclusion of the ongoing 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, the Office of the Ombudsman has started investigating Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and other officials who may be involved in the alleged mishandling of the P6-billion fund for the country’s hosting of the biennial sporting event.

“We are actually into that. I have just created a panel to conduct fact-finding investigation. If sufficient evidence is found, we will be pushed to file a case against those officials involved in this alleged corruption,” Martires told reporters in Manila yesterday.

Martires assured the people that all officials involved in the hosting of the SEA Games, especially those who handled the funds, would be covered by the probe.

The probe would include Cayetano despite President Duterte’s recent pronouncement that he does not think the Speaker is involved in alleged corruption of the SEA Games fund.

“Of course, we cannot be selective in our investigation. We have to see the extent of participation of each official of PHISGOC (Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee) or of any official involved in the Southeast Asian Games,” Martires added.

Cayetano is the head of PHISGOC, a private foundation that partnered with the Philippine Sports Commission in the hosting of over 500 sports events.

The Speaker had earlier insisted there was no corruption in the handling of the SEA Games fund. Cayetano said the reported blunders could have been avoided had the Senate approved the budget for the sports event on time.

Cayetano yesterday welcomed the investigation of the Office of the Ombudsman into the SEA Games spending.

“We welcome this as an opportunity to put to rest all the questions so that we may move forward in celebrating the success of our athletes and honoring the sacrifices of our workforce and volunteers,” he said.

“We will fully support all investigations, and as I said before, I am ordering full transparency, audits and opening of all books. Thousands of Filipinos worked hard and faithfully to make the Games the success that it is. There is  no anomaly,” he said. 

He recalled that two weeks ago, “when the SEA Games was under attack by groups out to discredit the government with fake news reports of unpreparedness and corruption, I already announced that we not only welcome, but are ourselves calling for an investigation by the proper agencies at the right time to clear the air about these unfounded allegations.”

“As we are ready to meet all these accusations, I am also issuing fair warning to all those who plotted against the SEA Games and put politics over country; those who espoused and spread fake news and malicious lies. Personally I forgive you, but for the national interest there should be accountability and a reckoning,” he said.

The Speaker said when he took on the job of PHISGOC chairman, he knew that the task was not only difficult “but also that cases would be filed no matter how strict we are in conducting our affairs.” 

“In fact, those who organized the 2005 SEA Games are still fighting cases filed against them.
But I did not hesitate simply because I knew this is not about me. This is about representing the country, and I have never shied away from that,” he said.

“I took on the challenge just as every single volunteer took on theirs, and for the same reason – because we believe that it is about time we show the world what a unified Filipino nation is capable of doing,” he said.

Martires said that though PHISGOC is a private entity, its officials could still be included in the ombudsman’s probe as long as there is allegation of conspiracy with public officials. 

“You know the cases that the ombudsman used to file at the Sandiganbayan, they usually include private individuals who were in conspiracy with government officials or employees. We always file a case both against the government official and the private individual. So of course, we cannot exclude the PHISGOC (in the investigation),” Martires said.

Martires said the panel, composed of seven members, has already started gathering evidence. Martires said he did not give a deadline for the conduct of the investigation as it will depend on the number of witnesses to be interviewed and volume of documents to be scrutinized.

“I give the panel the discretion on how they will conduct the investigation. What I just required from them is the formal report of their investigation, which I suppose will be completed anytime,” Martires said.

The Senate as well as the Office of the President had earlier stated that they will also conduct their respective investigation on the alleged SEA Games fiasco. 

The call for investigation came after a series of blunders before the formal opening of the SEA Games last Nov. 30, including the unfinished construction of venues and failure to timely pick up arriving athletes from the airport.

There were also complaints from several athletes and coaches regarding food and hotel accommodations. – With Jess Diaz

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