Government is moving

THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - November 14, 2020 - 12:00am

Five months into the Duterte presidency in 2016, as the core group and 52,000-plus appointees were settling into their jobs running the government, then-Philippine Olympic Committee president Peping Cojuangco needed to secure Malacañang’s backing in hosting the 2019 Southeast Asian Games. That started the ball rolling, and the dom­inoes falling. After so many surreal twists and turns, it has now resulted in great pressure to know exactly where all the pub­lic funds used for the SEA Games went, and Philip­pine Olympic Committee board members going to court over it.

The first pertinent document in this matter is Memorandum Circular No. 56, signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on Jan. 25, 2019. It directed all government agencies and instrumentalities, and requested local governments to support the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC). Next came the Memorandum of Agreement among the Philippine Sports Commission, the Philippine Olympic Committee and PHISGOC, signed on Aug. 15th of last year. It clearly defined the roles of each, with PHISGOC tasked to “oversee the preparations, organization, management and execution” of the Games. The PSC, under Republic Act 6847, is mandated to “spearhead the sports promotion and development programs of the country.”

Section 4 of the MOA also states that when it comes to funds disbursed by PSC, the commission would ensure that PHISGOC would be “transparent in conduct of bidding and procurement,” ensure PHISGOC’s compliance with the MOA, the COA circular and othersay anything about getting private, third-party groups to do so. PHISGOC was actually required to submit regular financial reports to POC and PSC. The PSC may also demand the refund of unused funds, and request a special COA audit, on a case to case basis. The agency can also take its own action against PHISGOC for violating terms of the agreement. An addendum to the MOA further strengthened the PSC’s position for the sake of expediency, as the Department of Budget and Management was already preoccupied with 11 other projects for the SEA Games at the time.

For sure, there is some political motivation behind the legal case recently filed against PHISGOC. POC elections are coming up. That doesn’t mean, however, that the case is devoid of any merit. It only took a few months to finish accounting for the SEA Games in 2005, and technology has advanced by leaps and bounds since then. Records are digitally stored, so there is hardly any need for hard copies.

Mobile phones and wireless data make tracking everything easier. And the pandemic has actually propelled everyone to work online, improving relevant efficiencies. COA’s deadline was a month after the SEA Games ended. That’s a non-negotiable requirement.

This situation has created an outward spiral of problems. COA has nothing to go on if it is to establish if, in fact, any corruption took place with SEA Games funds. DBM and PSC cannot close their books or complete the requirements demanded of them by the national government. This will make it difficult for Congress to grant them their budgets for succeeding plans and projects. So the hands of the aforementioned agencies are tied. They (and our national athletes) are left hanging because of this ultimately futile attempt at self-preservation by a handful of PHISGOC officials. This may also be part of a feeble ploy to somehow blame PSC for PHISGOC’s shortcomings.

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