Cayetano seeks COA special audit of SEA Games 2019

Mara Cepeda
Cayetano seeks COA special audit of SEA Games 2019
Speaker and SEA Games organizing committee chair Alan Peter Cayetano maintains there's no conflict of interest in his dual roles

MANILA, Philippines – Speaker and Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (Phisgoc) chair Alan Peter Cayetano will ask the Commission on Audit (COA) to conduct a special audit of public funds used in the country’s hosting of the SEA Games.

On Thursday, November 28, Cayetano maintained all transactions in the SEA Games were aboveboard and insisted he did not earn any kickback as Phisgoc chair. 

“So ako mismo kagabi, inutos ko [sa staff ko] na mag-draft ng letter dated December 12, address to COA for an independent special audit of all government funds used for the SEA Games,” the Phisgoc chief said in an ambush interview in San Juan City.

(Last night, I told my staff to draft a letter dated December 12 addressed to COA asking for an independent special audit of all government funds used for the SEA Games).

The 30th SEA Games will be held in Metro Manila and nearby areas from November 30 to December 11.

When asked if there was any conflict in interest in his dual roles as the top House leader and as chairman of the private foundation organizing the SEA Games, Cayetano said he ddid not find anything wrong with the setup.

“First of all, there’s no such thing as conflict of interest. Puwede kayong mag-imbento ng kahit anong gusto ninyo, imimbento ‘nyo na, ‘di ba?” a visibly irked Cayetano told reporters in an ambush interview in San Juan City.

(First of all, there’s no such thing as the conflict of interest. You can keep on making things up, okay?)

He argued that other congressmen headed national sports associations, while past SEA Games hosted by the Philippines were led by government officials.  

Cayetano then said he had to juggle campaigning as Taguig City-Pateros congressman earlier this year with attending meetings for Phisgoc and raising money for its employees.

“So madali naman dumakdak eh. Madaling sabihin na may conflict of interest. Nasaan ba kayo noong kailangan kayo ng Phisgoc? ‘Di sana nagvolunteer kayo, sana kayo ang nagchairman, sana kayo ang nag-ano ng pera ‘di ba?” he added.

(Talk is cheap. It’s so easy to say there’s conflict of interest. But where were you when Phisgoc needed you? Then you should’ve volunteered, you should’ve become the chairman, and you should’ve looked for the funds, right?)

Private foundations similar to Phisgoc were created in 1991 and 2005, for the Philippine hosting of the SEA Games in those years. Then Trade Secretary Peter Garrucho Jr headed the Manila Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee in 1991, while Roberto Pagdanganan led the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee in 2005, when he was chairman of the Philippine International Tradng Corporation.

Both Garrucho and Pagdanganan, however, weren’t part of Congress like Cayetano when they headed the SEA Games hosting. 

Cayetano ‘should have resigned’?

Former Philippine Olympic Committee president Cristy Ramos said Cayetano should have resigned as Phisgoc chair when he won as congressman in the May elections. 

“Of course, Phisgoc is a private entity and Alan Peter Cayetano is also the chairman of the Phisgoc. But he’s also a congressman and also the Speaker of the House. And Congress is really the fiscalizer and the guardian of the public purse. So you’re really putting public funds from one pocket just into the other pocket of the same short pants,” Ramos told ANC’s Early Edition on Monday, November 26.

“I really don’t know how they’re going to do a check and balance here since it’s just one and the same person. And I felt that maybe when Congressman Cayetano was elected as congressman, he should have resigned from his position as Phisgoc chairman,” she added. 

As logistical mishaps and alleged budget anomalies hound the SEA Games, Cayetano claimed he did not get any kickback as Phisgoc chair. (READ: Cayetano dares critics: ‘Hold me accountable’ for SEA Games mess)

He told detractors to hold their criticisms until after the end of the games on Wednesday, December 12. 

“And even assuming that’s all true – huwag ko nang sabihin na hindi totoo – eh hindi ba kayo puwedeng maghintay hanggang sa a-dose ng December para ‘yan, ‘di ba? ‘Yun ang sinasabi ko: tatargetin ‘nyo ako, ang tatamaan SEA Games ‘di ba? Galing-galingan ninyo ang target ‘nyo ‘di ba?” said Cayetano.

(And even assuming that’s all true – I won’t say that they aren’t – then can’t you wait until December 12? This is what I’m talking about: when you target me, the SEA Games will be affected, okay? You can do better than that, right?)

He also issued a warning against his critics.

“Pero I will also unmask those people who are shameless, o mga walanghiya, na gusto talagang sirain ang image ng ating bansa (I will unmask all those people who are shameless who only want to destory the image of our country),” the Speaker added. 

President Rodrigo Duterte wants Malacañang to hold a separate probe into all the SEA Games mishaps.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo also said the SEA Games organizers need to accept some of the criticisms being thrown at them. “There is indeed something wrong with the preparations,” he said.

But Cayetano, a Duterte ally, said Panelo “sometimes has his own interpretation” of what the President says. –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.