Senate probe into country's hosting of SEA Games sought
Fireworks lights up the sky during the closing ceremony of the SEA Games (Southeast Asian Games) at the athletics stadium in Clark, north of Manila on December 11, 2019.
AFP/Ted Aljibe
Senate probe into country's hosting of SEA Games sought
Gaea Katreena Cabico ( - December 18, 2019 - 2:12pm

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Leila De Lima, an outspoken critic of the Duterte administration, called on the Senate to investigate the organizational and administrative problems as well as allegations of corruption that marred the country's hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games.

The recently-concluded regional meet was a victory—at least for the country’s athletes—after the Philippines topped the medal table with 149 golds.

The country’s hosting, however, was beset by controversies even before the official start of the event: from transport delays, accommodation problems, complaints of volunteers, unfinished facilities to the P50-million cauldron, which critics said was too expensive and which organizing panel chief Alan Peter Cayetano defended as being priceless.

In filing Senate Resolution 274, De Lima said there is a need to conduct an inquiry into the country’s hosting of the SEA Games after the problems encountered were documented by mass media.

"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,” the detained lawmaker said.

De Lima also said the organizational structure through which the country hosts international sporting events must be also scrutinized.

“There is need to investigate the existing sports legislation 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,” she said.

The resolution does not name the panel that would hold the hearings, but the Senate has a Committee on Sports, which is chaired by Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go.

Go has already promised a probe into the Cayetano-led Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee's preparations for the games. 

"As of October 30, 2019, PHISGOC stated that preparations are 90% complete. Why did these things happen?" he said in Filipino in a privilege speech in November in reference to early reports of logistical hiccups.

"We do not need an apology. This cannot be remedied by a mere apology. What is needed is for everyone to wake up. Let's not be lackadaisical."

He also equated criticism of the games as contempt for the country, saying some were "applauding for the wrong reason—they are applauding because they want the games to fail."

De Lima, in her resolution, said: “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 might have enriched themselves in the procurement of government contracts for the hosting of the games.”

Ahead of the formal start of the sporting event, Malacañang said “there is indeed something wrong with the preparations.” But President Rodrigo Duterte cleared Cayetano, his vice-presidential runningmate and ally, of allegations of corruption.

Ombudsman Samuel Martires said the anti-corruption office has begun its investigation into the alleged mishandling of the P6-billion fund for the SEA Games hosting.

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