SPEAKER Alan Peter Cayetano yesterday challenged Senators Panfilo Lacson and Franklin Drilon to undergo a lie detector test with him in the face of insinuations that part of the budget for the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games went to corruption.
“I’m willing to have a lie detector test, kaming tatlo (the three of us) and I can look anyone in the eye, ni singko wala kaming kinita rito sa SEA Games, abonado pa nga kami dahil sa mga nangyari (I didn’t earn a single centavo from the SEA Games and we even had to pitch in because of everything that happened),” Cayetano told reporters after delivering a speech at the Club Filipino in San Juan City for the 44th National Prayer Breakfast.
Cayetano was reacting to Lacson’s claim that the transfer of P1.5 billion in public funds for the SEA Games from the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) to the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) Foundation Inc. that Cayetano chairs was akin to the case of Janet Lim-Napoles who used fictitious foundations to funnel “pork barrel” funds.
Cayetano was also referring to Drilon who questioned the P55 million spent for the SEA Games cauldron.
“Ang nangyari kay Napoles, peke ‘yung mga delivery, ninakaw ang pera (What happened to Napoles was fake delivery, the money was stolen),” he said. “Siya (Lacson) ay chairman ng accounts (committee) sa Senado, may hawak siyang funds ng Senado. Is there any wrongdoing? No. But if I say parang Napoles din ‘yun e di parang may mali nang ginawa (He is the chairman of the Senate accounts committee, he is holding funds in the Senate. Is there any wrongdoing? No. But if I say that it’s also like Napoles’ [case], it would seem that he too did something wrong),” he said.
The Speaker said the budget was placed under the 2019 budget of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) because he used to be its secretary.
“Nagtataka ako sa mga senador kung bakit sila nagtataka kung bakit nasa DFA e in-approve nila (I’m wondering why senators are asking why the budget was with the DFA when they were the ones who approved it),” said Cayetano.
“I have a memo to the secretary, to the executive secretary asking that the whole budget be put under the Office of the President. And sumagot sila (and they said) that after consulting everyone and their legal, it should be under the DFA sapagkat ako ang secretary nun and chairman (because I was the secretary that time and PHISGOC chairman),” he added.
Cayetano said the budget initially went to the DFA “for expediency and even Sen. (Franklin) Drilon did not question that.”
Kabayan party-list Rep. Ron Salo late Wednesday afternoon delivered a privilege speech and claimed that Drilon cut P2.5 billion from the SEA Games budget.
“Curiously, however, simultaneous with the P2.5 billion slashed in the SEA Games budget, is the increase in the budget of the various infrastructure projects in Iloilo, by P2.3 billion,” Salo said.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST?
Cayetano also slammed former Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Cristy Ramos for accusing him of conflict of interest, saying the SEA Games, in history, has always been led by public officials.
He pointed out that he was still with the DFA when he became PHISGOC chair but the problem was “we had no budget so it was me who was asking private businessmen (for budget).”
“First of all, there’s no such thing as conflict of interest. Puwede kayong mag-imbento ng kahit anong gusto ninyo, iimbento n’yo na, ‘di ba? Maraming congressman ang head ng national sports associations (You can invent whatever allegations you want. There are a lot of congressmen who are heads of national sports associations),” Cayetano said.
Cayetano added: “So madali naman dumakdak eh, madaling sabihin na may conflict of interest. Nasaan ba kayo nung kailangan kayo ng PHISGOC? ‘Di sana nag-volunteer kayo, sana kayo ang nag-chairman, sana kayo ang nag-ano ng pera ‘di ba? (So it’ so easy to blabber and cry conflict of interest. Where were you when PHISGOC needed you? You should have volunteered. You should have been the chairman and raised funds, right?).”
‘I WILL UNMASK YOU’
Cayetano said he is prepared to answer all investigations and vowed to unmask those behind what he called a smear campaign against him and the administration.
“Basta’t handa ako sa imbestigasyon after the SEA Games, humanda rin kayo sa imbestigasyon kasi i-unmask ko rin kayo (I am ready to face all investigations but you should also be ready because I will unmask you),” he said, pointing to some members of the opposition.
Cayetano, who threatened to file libel and cyber libel charges against those behind the alleged vilification campaign and fake news about the way the SEA Games was allegedly mishandled by the PHISGOC, said he would unmask “those people who shamelessly want to divide our country.”
“I need the PHISGOC board to approve it (plan to file libel) but my vote sa PHISGOC is that anything that tried to smear my name or any personality, okay lang kasi personal ‘yun (it’s okay because it’s personal) but if you try to smear the name of the SEA Games or of the country, dapat naman humarap ka (you should face it),” he said.
In his speech, Cayetano said: “(By) December 12, hold me accountable. Hold the SEA Games Organizing Committee accountable. Hindi ako magtatago. Ako mismo ang haharap sa Senado, sa Ombudsman (I won’t hide. I, myself, will face the Senate and the Ombudsman).
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and concurrent presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo earlier said President Duterte was displeased with the allegations hounding the holding of the SEA Games and that he may order someone from the Office of the President to hold a discreet investigation to find out what really happened.
Cayetano, however, belied Panelo’s claim, saying “that wasn’t the message to me by the President.”
“Secretary Panelo sometimes has his own interpretation, or his own words. He (Panelo) was there in many of the meetings with the Executive Secretary. So ako mismo kagabi, inutos ko na mag-draft ng letter (So I’ve ordered that a letter be drafted) dated December 12 (which is day after the SEA Games), addressed to COA (Commission on Audit) for an independent special audit of all government funds used for the SEA Games,” he said.
NOTHING PROVEN YET
Lacson yesterday said corruption issues hounding the PHISGOC have not yet been proven.
“Nobody is saying that PHISGOC has committed corruption. We’re not there yet. What’s evident so far are the complaints aired by the athletes which project incompetence and inefficiency that the President, no less, wants rectified and investigated,” Lacson said in his Twitter account.
Lacson earlier said that some P1.5 billion in public funds had been transferred from the Philippine Sports Commission to PHISGOC, which is headed by Cayetano.
Lacson said the transfer of funds can be likened to the “pork barrel fund” scam done by a number of solons involving non-government organizations created by Janet Lim-Napoles.
NO SACRED COWS
Malacañang yesterday assured the public that there would be no sacred cows in the investigation to be done in connection with the controversies and complaints hounding the country’s hosting of the SEA Games.
Panelo said Malacañang has been closely monitoring the preparations for the SEA Games and acknowledged that while it is inevitable that problems would arise, “the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) should perform better services expected of them.”
Panelo said Malacañang agreed with critics that “there is indeed something wrong with the preparations,” citing the various complaints that have reached the Palace, include those pertaining to logistics such as transportation and accommodation issues.
He said the Palace probe on the aberrations and irregularities in the preparations would be done after the Games end but welcomes plans of the Senate to conduct its own an inquiry.
“There is no sacred cow in this government. We’ve been repeatedly saying that those who transgress to law will be accountable,” he said of the probe to be done by a committee to be formed by the Office of the President.
The Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) called on Duterte to declare free entry to various venues to the game to enable more Filipinos to support the athletes.
“The essence of the SEA Games is to unite all citizens in ASEAN and all Filipinos together.
We cannot win as one nation if tickets and cost of watching games are affordable only to the privileged,” said ALU-TUCP spokesman Alan Tanjusay. – With Raymond Africa, Jocelyn Montemayor and Gerard Naval