'Let Ombudsman do it': Sotto nixes proposed Senate probe on SEA Games loans

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 13 2020 12:03 PM

'Let Ombudsman do it': Sotto nixes proposed Senate probe on SEA Games loans 1
Senate President Vicente Sotto III delivers a manifestation during a Senate hearing on November 3, 2020. Joseph Vidal, Senate PRIB

MANILA - Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Friday shot down proposals for the chamber to investigate alleged anomalies in the Philippines' hosting of the 2019 Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games).

Minority senators Risa Hontiveros and Leila de Lima earlier filed separate resolutions urging the Senate to look into alleged irregularities in the loans government officials took to fund the construction of sports venues, and how this was spent.

"We garnered an unprecedented medal haul in the recent SEA Games and instead of congratulations, we will reward the people behind with investigations? Huwag ganun (We shouldn't be like that)," Sotto told reporters in a text message.

"Ombudsman mag-investigate. Puwede din sa kanila file complaint," said the Senate President, a former national athlete in the bowling team. 

(The Ombudsman should investigate. They can also file the complaint there.)

In a privilege speech earlier this week, Hontiveros accused the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) of using taxpayer's money to pay for a P9.5-billion loan used to fund the construction of sports facilities in the New Clark City for the games, despite signing a joint venture agreement with Malaysian developer MTD Capital Berhad.

Under the agreement, BCDA was to provide the land while MTD Capital Berhad was to finance the construction.

De Lima, on the other hand, filed 2 resolutions to investigate in aid of legislation alleged problems in the hosting of the 2019 SEA Games, including the liquidation of public funds used for the regional athletics meet.

In response to Hontiveros' probe call, a livid Sen. Pia Cayetano said it was an embarrassment that such world class facilities that Filipino athletes had long waited for were being turned into a "political issue."

"I am embarrassed that we cannot even honor that. I am embarrassed that we choose to make a political issue out of a world-class facility," said the senator, a sports enthusiast and former national athlete.

"Kaya tuloy wala nang mag-aabala na magpatayo ng matitino at kahanga-hangang infrastructure dito sa Pilipinas dahil magpatayo ka ng maganda, sasabihan kang may kalokohan ka," she said.

(That's why we can't build impressive infrastructure here because if you build one, you will be accused of wrongdoing.)

"So paano? Puro bulok na lang tayo para walang pumansin? Ganoon?" she said.

(So what now? We will make do with rotten facilities so they would just go unnoticed?)

Sen. Cayetano is the elder sister of Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano, who headed the 30th SEA Games' organizing committee.

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Senate Committee on Sports chair Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go said he is willing to proceed with the investigation to see if government officials really erred in deals related to the 30th SEA Games.

"Para sa akin, kailangang lumabas ang katotohanan at katulad ng mga sinabi ko noon, ni piso mula sa kaban ng bayan ay hindi dapat manakaw o masayang," Go, a former aide of President Rodrigo Duterte, said in a statement.

(For me, the truth should come out and like I said before even a peso from public coffers should not be stolen or put to waste.)

"Kung may mga alegasyon ng anomalya sa anumang mga proyekto ng gobyerno, dapat sagutin at hindi palampasin ito," he said.

(If there are allegations of anomalies in any government project, it should be answered and not ignored.)

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee has yet to set a schedule for the hearing as the chamber is still prioritizing the passage of the 2021 budget.

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