MANILA, Philippines -- Senator Risa Hontiveros stressed the need to investigate the "possible irregularities" regarding the construction of the sports facilities used in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, even after her proposal was shot down by Senate President Vicente Sotto III last Friday.
In a statement Monday, Hontiveros said Filipino athletes cannot be used as a shield from the investigations, as the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) should be held accountable for their roles in the joint venture agreement with Malaysian developer MTD Capital Berhad.
"Calling for an investigation into possible irregularities surrounding the construction of the sport facilities used in the Southeast Asian Games tarnishes neither the achievements of our athletes nor the honor they have earned for the country," said Hontiveros.
"They should not be used as an excuse to sweep the issue under a rug," she stressed.
Hontiveros had called for an investigation into the joint venture agreement between the BCDA and MTD Capital Berhad last week, after the Commission on Audit flagged the deal as potentially "disadvantageous to the public."
In her most recent statement, Hontiveros said the joint venture may have been fraudulent.
"Sa totoong halimbawa ng joint venture, sa gobyerno manggagaling ang lupa at sa private partner manggagaling ang kapital para mabuo ang proyekto," said Hontiveros. "Walang perang lalabas sa bulsa ng taumbayan, kaya maaring may dahilan kung bakit hindi ganoon kahigpit ang public bidding requirements pag JV."
"Pero sa tinatawag nilang 'joint venture' sa gitna ng BCDA and MTD Berhad, ang lupa at ang pera para sa proyekto ay parehong nanggaling sa taumbayan. Walang tinayang kapital ang MTD Berhad," she pointed out.
"Kaya sinabi kong may bahid na peke ang joint venture dahil pinalabas ng BCDA na nag-ambag ng pera ang MTD Berhad. Ngunit ang pera na iyon ay pina-utang ng DBP at sa huli, ang pinang-bayad sa utang na ito ay kinuha sa bulsa nating mga taxpayer," she said.
"Kaya joint venture nga ba ito, o ginisa tayo ng BCDA sa sarili nating mantika?"
Hontiveros' calls for an investigation drew the ire of Senator Pia Cayetano, whose brother, Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano, was the chairman of the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC).
Cayetano slammed Hontiveros for politicizing the SEA Games venues which she said benefited the Filipino athletes during the Philippines' hosting of the multi-nation meet last year.
"Does her honor know that they (athletes) cried when they saw the stadium? Does her honor know that they cried when they had the opportunity to run on the turf?" asked Cayetano. "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."
On Friday, Sotto said the investigation into the joint venture agreement should be left to the Office of the Ombudsman. Like Cayetano, he questioned the need for investigating the BCDA considering their role in the Philippines' campaign in the SEA Games.
"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," said Sotto.
But Hontiveros made it clear that investigating the deal between the BCDA and MTD Berhad does not dishonor the Filipino athletes.
"There are just many questions and it is about time we stopped hiding the answers behind our athletes," she said.
"Kaya huwag nating daanin sa pagdadabog o ipasa na lang basta-basta sa Ombudsman," she added. "Dapat itong imbestigahan dahil napakaraming bahid na nadehado tayo, at para maisaayos at mabigyang-linaw ang batas ukol sa mga joint venture."
Filipino athletes dominated the 2019 SEA Games, delivering 387 medas including 149 golds as the Philippines claimed the overall championship for the first time since 2005.