At what cost?

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    A NATION weighed down by unbridled corruption scandals, rampant EJKs and the insurmountable drug menace is suddenly perked up by a stunning haul of gold medals after only three days into the SEA Games. The downside was that the triumphs of our exceptional athletes eclipsed the National Heroes’ Day on Nov. 30, the commemoration of which left no one excited. All of our country’s nearly 500 athletes have dreamed of winning gold medals and becoming our source of pride and honor. We hope that many of them had looked up to the heroes of old who struggled with their blood, sweat and tears in a true savage arena that took their lives for us to have the life we so enjoy today.

    The Philippines’ unfolding triumphant finish at the SEA games should not deflect the eyes of the nation from the organizer’s accountability with the use of the huge people’s money. We should not be relishing the hard-earned victory by our outstanding athletes only for the glory to perish for it had come through a series of felony transactions at the expense of taxpayers’ money. The spectacle should not be allowed to override the essential and that the people must be able to see through the glitter to face the decay and decadence.

    It was most likely that the hard-as-nails Pres Duterte had intervened for the feuding officials from the Philippine Sports Commission and the Philippine Olympic Committee to stand down and allow House Speaker Allan Cayetano virtually a free rein over the crucial preparations for the 30th SEA Games. Free from the stink of politics and patronage, Cayateno had pulled off a remarkable feat sans the initial foul-ups on the arrival of many delegates.

    But the people need to know at what cost. Sen. Panfilo Lacson likened the transfer of P1.5 billion in public funds from the Philippine Sports Commission to the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee to the multi-billion pork barrel scam. He stressed that the “funneling of taxpayer money to a private foundation was questionable” and, as we know, unlawful.

    The alleged bigger anomaly which the Senate should unravel was the construction of the P13-billion New Clark City Athletics Stadium and the Aquatic Center in Tarlac. The BCDa signed a joint-venture agreement with MTD Capital Bergard, a Malaysian conglomerate, despite an opposing legal opinion from the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel.

    MTD had submitted reportedly an unsolicited proposal to build the facilities at the cost of P8.51 billion but “the cost ballooned to P11.1 billion in the contract.” MTD funded the construction with a P9.5-billion loan from the Development Bank of the Philippines. A BCDA officer who requested anonymity claimed the deal was put together to ensure that MTD would bag the contract minus public bidding.

    The adverse opinion from GCC was issued belatedly on Oct.2, 2018, or eight months after the contract had been awarded. Of course, it was a contrived scenario which the Senate committee on ways and means would not swallow.