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Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque

House eyes probe on SEA Games controversy

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Malacañang Palace is leaving to the House of Representatives panel whether it would investigate alleged corruption and irregularities in the use of government funds during the 30th Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) which the Philippines hosted in 2019, according to a report by Philippine News Agency.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque issued the statement after the House's Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability chair Rep. Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado bared that his panel is open to calls for an inquiry into how billions of pesos were used by the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (Phisgoc) chaired by then Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.

Although the Office of the Ombudsman last December created a fact-finding committee to probe those who handled the funds, Roque said the House panel is also free to conduct its own probe on issues hounding the biennial sports meet.

"We note that the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) has already created a panel last year to carry out a fact-finding probe in our hosting of the 2019 SEA Games. We welcome this move of the OMB in the same way that we leave the matter to the House of Representatives to conduct an investigation, if need be, on the use of government funds during last year’s SEA Games," he said in a statement on Sunday.

Roque, meanwhile, reminded the panel not to discredit the efforts made by Filipino athletes for bringing pride and honor to the country as well as the preparations and execution done by the Phisgoc in the country’s hosting of the regional sporting event.

"The 30th Southeast Asian Games showcased not only our local athletes at their best but also demonstrated our successful hosting of a world-class sporting event. Let us, therefore, not dishonor the men and women who gave honor and glory to the country by engaging in political innuendos and witch hunts," he added.

Last Saturday, Sy-Alvarado said they would be open to conduct a hearing into the issue as long as there would be a referral to the panel.

However, he said he is not aware of any resolution that had been filed seeking an investigation.

In a TV interview, Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said he was also open to an investigation if a resolution were filed.

“Kung may nag-file na po ng resolusyon sa Congress, pero wala po tayong magagawa kung di ihi-hear po ito,” Velasco said in an interview on GMA-7’s Unang Hirit last Oct. 19.

Around PHP6 billion has been allocated for the country’s fourth hosting of the SEA Games from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11, 2019. The Philippines also hosted the Games in 1981, 1991, and 2005 when it won the overall title.

Phisgoc earlier earned criticisms for inconveniences on transport, lodging and other logistical issues experienced by foreign athletes prior to the formal opening of the SEA Games on November 30, 2019.

Its decision to spend PHP50 million for the construction and design of a stadium cauldron for the SEA Games also drew flak from the public.

The cauldron was designed by the late Filipino architect Bobby Mañosa.

The design of the cauldron, which is three meters in diameter, costs PHP4.48 million, while the 50-meter high foundation amounted to PHP13.4 million. The total cost of construction was pegged at PHP32 million.

Early this month, Philippine Sports Commission Executive Director Guillermo Iroy Jr. also said Phisgoc still owed PHP387 million to some of the suppliers mobilized for the country's hosting of the sporting event.

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