Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday said the heads of the Senate committees who were tasked to probe the alleged funding irregularities surrounding the construction of the sports facilities used in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games last year should not be preempted.
Hontiveros said that calling for an investigation into the possible irregularities surrounding the creation of the said sports facilities “tarnishes neither the achievements of our athletes nor the honor they have earned for the country.”
“They should not be used as an excuse to sweep the issue under a rug. After all, it was our athletes who won the medals, and not the persons responsible for a project flagged as anomalous by the Commission on Audit (COA),” Hontiveros said in a statement.
The senator reiterated she was not the first to notice the irregularities in the joint venture agreement between the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BDCA) and Malaysian developer, MTD Capital Berhad.
“Hindi ako ang unang nakapansin nito (I was not the first to notice the anomaly). This project was flagged as possibly disadvantageous to the people by the COA and the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC),” she said.
“On the other hand, sa mga nagsasabing aprubado ng Asian Development Bank (ADB) ang project, kailan pa naging regulator ang ADB? (to those who said the project was approved by the ADB, when did ADB become a regulator?) Has the ADB usurped COA’s mandate?” she asked.
Hontiveros reiterated the issue “is about accountability, not politics” and emphasized the need for the BDCA and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) to answer the questions raised by the COA vis-a-vis the construction of the sports facilities used in connection with the SEA Games.
“The Chairs of the Senate Committees within whose competence this matter falls should not be preempted. It should be left to their sound judgment as to when and how an inquiry should be conducted,” she said.
“While certain aspects of this issue are already pending before the Office of the Ombudsman, Joint Ventures (JVs) involving the government remain a legal gray area governed by multiple, and possibly conflicting, sets of rules: the 2013 NEDA Rules on JVs, the charters of GOCCs, and even rules formulated by local government units (LGUs),” added the senator.
“There is, thus, a need for Congress to step in and provide some clarity to avoid the exact incident red-flagged by the COA; of projects being dressed up as JVs to side-step public bidding requirements. The Senate should not be prevented from doing its job,” she added.
Hontiveros, in a privilege speech, had earlier called for an investigation into the matter for possible corruption. Her resolution was later on referred to the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee and the Sports Committee, which are headed by Senators Richard Gordon and Christopher “Bong” Go, respectively.
Gordon has said he is willing to start a probe on the controversy, while Go has urged the BCDA to prove that the project is above-board.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III, however, expressed his disagreement with the planned probe, agreeing with Sen. Pia Cayetano’s position that it will undermine the importance of giving national athletes the recognition they deserve.