Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has sought an immediate Senate investigation into the alleged irregularities that marred the country’s hosting of the recently concluded 2019 Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games).
De Lima filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 274 directing the appropriate Senate committee to conduct an investigation on the reported organizational and administrative problems, as well as possible corruption, which affected the biennial sports meet.
“As we celebrate our athletes’ most successful campaign in recent memory, it is likewise important for our government to scrutinize our performance both as a host country and as patrons to our athletes,” she said.
“The reports on organizational problems surrounding our preparation betrays a political dynamic that could translate to even greater problems in our sports programs in the future,” she added.
Prior to its opening on Nov. 30, the country’s hosting of the SEA Games has been beset by organizational issues, including early troubles with transportation and accommodations of teams from Myanmar, Timor-Leste and Cambodia, accreditation issues and lack of halal food for Singapore’s delegation, and even problems with accreditation of media.
Delays were also noted on the construction of some sports venues, such as the Rizal Memoral Sports Complex and New Clark City, which some Filipino athletes saw as a lost opportunity for them to maximize their homecourt advantage ahead of the games.
Several volunteers for the SEA Games also aired their grievances over the lack of system and coordination of the volunteer program that resulted to some of them having to wait long hours just to get their accreditation IDs and uniforms.
Likewise, the Duterte administration also drew flaks for allocating an exorbitant amount, or a whopping 50 million pesos, for a 50-meter tall cauldron-type structure for the lighting of the SEA games flame.
The unrelenting backlash on social media received by the government due to the country’s hosting of the event eventually forced apologies from the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (Phisgoc) chaired by House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and the Palace.
“Proper management and governance necessitate that we conduct an inquiry on the recently concluded SEA Games, especially after the problems encountered were duly documented by the mass media,” De Lima pointed out.
She also underscored the need to scrutinize the organizational structure through which the country hosts international sporting events to ensure that the funds will be properly given to institutions with the mandate and capability to properly utilize them.
“There is need to investigate the existing sports legislation to ensure that support and funding are given to the agencies that have proper mandate and that accountability lies even with private organizations, especially those who have access to government resources,” she said.
“While problems of disorganization, incompetence, and inefficiency can be resolved through institutional mechanisms, what cannot be countenanced is the scandalous probability that in the middle of all this disorganization and incompetence, certain high public officials still might have enriched themselves in the procurement of government contracts for the hosting of the games,” she added.
Philippine Sports Commission Chairman and current PHISGOC Executive Board’s co-vice chairperson William Ramirez attributed the delayed preparations in the SEA games to the dynamics between Philippine Olympic Committee and PHISGOC officials and the delayed passage of the national budget.