PHISGOC hand in SEA Games questioned

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 14) — Why is a private foundation involved in the organization of the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games?

This was the question which Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon posed to the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) during plenary deliberations Thursday night on its proposed budget for 2020.

Drilon said the functions of the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) could have been performed by government agencies, like the PSC, instead.

After trying to answer this questions by stating the function of the PHISGOC, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go eventually said that the foundation exists to “mediate” between organizers of the SEA Games.

Alam naman natin ang sports sa ating bansa, lahat gusto may humawak, sila ang hahawak. Eh ang kala ko before sports lang, eh nahaluan ng pulitika eh. So kailangan may aktor na magpagitna diyan,” Go said.

[Translation: We know that everyone wants to have control of sports in the country. I thought before that this is just about sports, but it’s also laced with politics. So an actor should mediate.]

But Drilon pointed out that the supposed mediators in the PHISGOC are also government officials who helped organize the SEA Games. Among officials in the PHISGOC are PSC chairman William “Butch” Ramirez and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, who heads the body.

“The members of the foundation that you enumerated are also government officials, so why did these government officials could have not performed the task as government officials and not as members of the organization?” he said.

The government agency could not adequately answer Drilon’s questions and relayed through Go that they will explain the reason behind PHISGOC’s involvement in the SEA Games through a position paper.

This further delayed the approval of PSC’s budget for next year, with the Senate suspending consideration of its fiscal plan.

It was also revealed at the budget deliberations that the government had already paid PHISGOC ₱700 million for their operations expenses, which include cauldron production, broadcast content and service requirements, venue-related expenses, gametime service requirements, workshops, trainings, events, volunteer, promotions, retention initiatives and medical gametime requirements.

The PSC said the PHISGOC will receive more money soon.

PHISGOC is a non-stock, non-profit organization created to oversee the preparations and execution of the Philippines’ hosting of the 30th SEA Games.

All government agencies were directed by President Rodrigo Duterte under Memorandum Circular No. 56 to “render full support and assistance” to PHISGOC in preparation for the regional sports meet.

However, Duterte himself raised corruption concerns regarding PHISGOC’s handling of the SEA Games, pointing out that “there’s a lot of corruption in the private sector.”

But the alleged corruption, according to Duterte, supposedly does not involve Cayetano — his staunch ally whom he endorsed to become Speaker for 15 months, before being replaced by another ally, Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco.

PHISGOC later assured that the funds for the country’s SEA Games hosting remained intact and vowed that it has “wisely and properly spent” the ₱6 billion allotted for the regional meet.

During the deliberations, Go pointed out that this is not the first time that a private organization spearheaded the preparations for the country’s hosting of a sporting event.

In 1991, then President Cory Aquino appointed the Manila Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee as the “lead ad hoc body tasked to ensure the sources of the Southeast Asian Games.”

The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) also designated the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee, then abbreviated as PHILSOC, to head the preparation and organization of the 23rd SEA Games in 2005. All concerned government agencies were also ordered by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arrroyo to work with the POC and PHILSOC.