Senate of the Philippines

Sotto not keen on Senate probe into alleged SEA Games funding anomalies

JC Gotinga

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Sotto not keen on Senate probe into alleged SEA Games funding anomalies

SENATE PRESIDENT. Senator Vicente Sotto III at the Senate session hall in September 2020

photo by Joseph Vidal/ Senate PRIB

'We garnered an unprecedented medal haul in the recent SEA Games and instead of congratulations, we will reward the people behind [it] with investigations?' asks Senate President Vicente Sotto III

Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Friday, November 13, expressed disagreement with a proposal for the Senate to investigate alleged funding irregularities in construction projects for the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.

“We garnered an unprecedented medal haul in the recent SEA Games and instead of congratulations, we will reward the people behind [it] with investigations? Huwag ganun. May Ombudsman naman (Don’t be like that. There’s the Ombudsman anyway), if warranted,” Sotto said in a tweet on Friday morning.

He also posted this statement on his official Viber thread with reporters.

Sotto’s position on the matter aligns with that of Senator Pia Cayetano, who strongly opposed a resolution calling for a legislative probe into a P9.5-billion loan taken by a Malaysian contractor from a Philippine government-owned bank to finance the construction of sports facilities at New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac.

Although he is not keen on having the Senate launch its own investigation, Sotto earlier said he would let the Senate Blue Ribbon committee decide on Hontiveros’ proposal. The Blue Ribbon committee is chaired by Senator Richard Gordon.

In a privilege speech on Tuesday, November 10, Senator Risa Hontiveros urged the Senate to investigate the matter for possible corruption. She filed a resolution outlining the reasons why she believed a probe in aid of legislation was in order.

Hontiveros’ proposed investigation is aimed at government officials behind the construction projects for the 2019 SEA Games, which the Philippines hosted.

Hontiveros questioned the legitimacy and necessity of the joint venture entered into by the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) with Malaysian firm MTD Capital Berhad.

By taking the loan from the Development Bank of the Philippines, MTD in effect used Philippine public funds instead of its own to finance the construction project, Hontiveros pointed out.

The BCDA, meanwhile, would pay MTD a total of P11.1 billion as part of the agreement. What, then, was the point of the joint venture? Hontiveros asked.

The opposition senator then inquired whether the BCDA facilitated the loan, which the Commission on Audit (COA) tagged as disadvantageous to the government. If so, then it would have been a “behest loan,” which is considered a corrupt practice.

Cayetano, whose brother Taguig-Pateros Representative Alan Peter Cayetano headed the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC), lashed out at Hontiveros for supposedly “castigating” the athletes who brought the country honor when they competed in the facilities in question.

Senator Cayetano also accused Hontiveros of undermining the importance of giving national athletes proper facilities for training.

Hontiveros responded that investigating and weeding out corruption is a way to honor Filipino athletes. She noted that the COA and the former head of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) also saw red flags in the deal between the BCDA and MTD Capital Berhad.

Read Rappler’s 3-part investigation on this project:

BCDA president and CEO Vince Dizon, current OGCC chief Elpidio Vega, and MTD director Isaac David are facing graft and malversation complaints involving the joint venture.

Meanwhile, the PHISGOC still owed suppliers a total of P387 million, Philippine Sports Commission executive director Guillermo Iroy Jr said n a Senate budget hearing in October – nearly a year since the SEA Games. –

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JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.