Ombudsman begins probe on SEAG spending

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    A SPECIAL panel composed of seven investigators has started looking into allegations of irregularities in the country’s hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games, Ombudsman Samuel Martires revealed yesterday.

    Barring delays in obtaining records of financial transactions from all agencies and personalities involved, the chief of the government’s anti-corruption agency said he expects a result to be submitted no later than three months.

    “I have created a panel to conduct fact-finding investigation. If the evidence warrants, we will file a case against those officials involved,” Martires said.

    He confirmed the probe will review the participation of all government agencies involved in the SEA Games preparations as well as the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC), a non-government organization headed by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano as chairman.

    “(The investigation will cover) all agencies, all that came in contact with the money. There will be no selective investigation. We have to see the manner of participation of each official of PHISGOC and any others involved in the Southeast Asian Games,” Martires stressed.

    The Ombudsman said that PHISGOC cannot not be excluded from the investigation if the panel finds evidence linking it to any irregularity.

    “If a private individual is found to have acted in conspiracy with government officials, we will file a case against both. So of course, it is not possible to leave PHISGOC out,” he explained.

    He said the speed of the investigation will depend on the volume of documents the panel would have to scour to find basis to continue with the next phase of its probe.

    “The panel has seven members. It is already at work. I gave the panel discretion how to go about the task. All I required is a report which I suppose will be completed anytime,” Martires pointed out.

    Cayetano welcomed the Ombudsman’s move as a chance to put all allegations and doubts to rest.

    “We not only welcome but are ourselves calling for an investigation by the proper agencies at the right time to clear the air about these unfounded allegations. We welcome this as an opportunity to put to rest all the questions so that we may move forward in celebrating the success of our athletes,” Cayetano said.

    “We will fully support all investigations, and as I said before, I am ordering full transparency, audits and opening of all books. Thousands of Filipinos worked hard and faithfully to make the Games the success that it is. There are no anomalies here,” Cayetano added.

    He also called on the public to “honor the sacrifices of our workforce and volunteers” who worked with government agencies to address initial problems in the biennial meet.

    Cayetano said he was forewarned about the possibility that accusations and cases would be filed “no matter how strict we are in conducting our affairs.”

    He said he was informed that those who organized the 2005 SEA Games are still fighting cases filed against them.

    “But I did not hesitate simply because I knew this is not about me. This is about representing the country, and I have never shied away from that. I took on the challenge just as every single volunteer took on theirs… because we believe that it is about time we show the world what a unified Filipino nation is capable of doing,” he said.

    Issuing a warning of his own, Cayetano said he will hold accountable “those who plotted against the SEA Games and put politics over country” as well as those who “espoused and spread fake news and malicious lies.”

    “Personally, I forgive you but for the national interest, there will be accountability and reckoning,” Cayetano said.

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