Ombudsman probes PHISGOC, Cayetano in possible SEA Games corruption

Lian Buan
(UPDATED) Despite it being a private foundation, the Ombudsman says 'hindi puwedeng hindi kasama ang PHISGOC'

SEA GAMES PROBE. Ombudsman Samuel Martires creates a 7-man fact-finding panel to look into possible corruption in the Philippines' organizing of the Southeast Asian Games. Photo by Lian Buan/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Ombudsman Samuel Martires said on Monday, December 9, he has created a fact-finding panel to look into possible corruption in the organizing of the 30th Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games).

“I have just created a panel to conduct a fact-finding investigation, at kapag may nakitang ebidensya (and if we find evidence) we will be forced to file a case against those officials na involved sa (involved in) alleged corruption,” Martires said.

The Office of the Ombudsman launched the fact-finding investigation on a motu propio basis, or on its own, without a need for a complaint, which is part of its powers. The fact-finding panel will recommend whether a complaint will be filed, afterwhich it will undergo the criminal preliminary investigation to be done by the office as well.

Martires confirmed that the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC), as well as its chairman House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, are included in the probe. (READ: Multi-billion SEA Games 2019 fund follows Cayetano where he goes)

PHISGOC is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as a non-stock, non-profit group, and created solely for the hosting of the SEA Games.

Martires explained that the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan has always tackled cases involving private officials if there are public officials involved.

“Hindi puwedeng hindi kasama ang PHISGOC (We cannot not include PHISGOC),” Martires said.

Amid mishaps in the hosting, Malacañang has insisted Cayetano enjoys the trust of President Rodrigo Duterte.

“Hindi tayo puwedeng maging selective sa ating investigation, we have to see kung ano ang naging participation ng bawat opisyal ng PHISGOC,” said Martires.

(We cannot be selective in our investigation, we have to see how each official of PHISGOC participated.)

Martires said that apart from PHISGOC, all agencies that had a hand in organizing the SEA Games will be investigated.

The panel is composed of 7 members who have already began collating documents, said Martires.

“I gave the panel the discretion kung paano nila gagawin ang investigation, basta ang kailangan ko lang sa kanila ay report ng kanilang investigation which I suppose will be completed anytime within the year,” Martires.

(I gave the panel the discretion how to do their investigation, I just need their report which I suppose will be completed anytime within the year.)

PHISGOC had to its disposal P1.5 billion in funds that did not undergo public bidding. The funds were categorized as financial assistance and as such, were exempted from the coverage of the procurement law.

Cayetano said they had to resort to other modes of procurement to expedite the process.

Cayetano’s chairmanship of PHISGOC also has some constitutional issues because cabinet members and members of Congress are prohibited from holding other government positions.

Cayetano was foreign secretary when he became PHISGOC chair and continued to hold the position when he won a seat at the House of Representatives.

Cayetano welcomed the investigation, yet he also continued to insist he did not earn a single centavo from the country’s hosting of the SEA Games.

“We will fully support all investigations, and as I said before, I am ordering full transparency, audits and opening of all books. Thousands of Filipinos worked hard and faithfully to make the Games the success that it is. Wala itong anomalya (There’s no anomaly here),” Cayetano said in a Facebook post.

But the House Speaker and PHISGOC chair also issued a “fair warning” to critics of the SEA Games.

“As we are ready to meet all these accusations, I am also issuing fair warning to all those who plotted against the SEA Games and put politics over country; those who espoused and spread fake news and malicious lies. Personally I forgive you, but for the national interest there to accountability and a reckoning,” Cayetano said. – with a report from Mara Cepeda/Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.