Citing government accountability, President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday night shot down efforts by the privately-formed Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (Phisgoc) Foundation to snatch the hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games from the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC).
I have to be responsible for this. Give (the SEA Games) to government
Speaking for the first time about the government’s sports program during an exclusive interview by Daily Tribune, Mr. Duterte explicitly said that he would not allow the Phisgoc Foundation to organize the hosting of the SEA Games.
The Games are set from 30 November to 10 December at different venues, with the New Clark City serving as the main hub for centerpiece events athletics and swimming.
“I have to be responsible for this. Give (the SEA Games) to government,” the Chief Executive said in reply to Daily Tribune’s query about the leadership deadlock permeating the hosting chores.
The Philippines attracted the SEA Games hosting following Brunei’s withdrawal from the chore in 2015 before the turnover right after Singapore’s turn at the hosting.
But it was not until 2017 after the end of the Marawi terror siege that the Philippines could assure the SEA Games Federation that it can host the event as government prioritized the reconstruction of what used to be Mindanao’s most prosperous city that was wrecked by the war initiated by the local affiliates of the ISIS terror group.
The first organizing body for the SEA Games led by Miguel Zubiri had also quit chasing the prospect of bringing the SEA Games to the Philippines for the fourth time. The country hosted the Games in 1981, 1991 (when it placed second overall) and in 2005 (when it won the overall championship).
But the government’s resolution of the Marawi armed conflict also changed the complex of the country’s readiness to show its best side to its neighbor countries.
POC President Jose “Peping” Cojuangco seized the opportunity to secure the hosting and appointed then Foreign Affairs Sec. Alan Peter Cayetano to lead what was formed as the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee or Phisgoc.
The original Phisgoc had Cayetano as chairman with PSC Chief William “Butch” Ramirez and Cojuangco as co-chairmen.
But a court order to proceed to a re-vote of the POC presidency resulted in the ouster of Cojuangco.
Replacing Cojuangco as POC president, Ricky Vargas immediately forged a partnership with Cayetano. Together, they incorporated the Phisgoc Foundation (not the original Phisgoc in which government was included) with the Securities and Exchange Commission. They also booted out Ramirez from the original leadership composition.
Cayetano’s staff together with Vargas and his men founded Phisgoc Foundation to be able to independently raise funds from the private sector. It took longer than usual for the government to assure the SEA Games hosting with fund as the national budget was delayed.
Cayetano had also resigned from his Department of Foreign Affairs post to seek a congressional seat.
Cayetano sought P7.5 billion from government to fund the SEA Games. But the national budget approved allocated just P5 billion, which was made part of the PSC budget as it is the rightful agency to disburse funding for sports.
Cayetano contested the awarding of the budget to the PSC but to no avail.
Then, he sought a supplementary P1 billion fund from President Duterte.
The Chief Executive gave it his approval but still lodged the money under the PSC’s care.
Cayetano’s Phisgoc Foundation, however, was questioned by the POC executive board, which did not give its imprimatur to the new, private body.
The Council’s leadership also questioned the Phisgoc Foundation’s deal for the supply of uniform and training gears, which seemed overpriced by several hundredfold, including pairs of socks costing nearly P3,000 each. The deal was voided soon after as only the POC can enter into contracts related to the hosting.
The Phisgoc Foundation also made itself the organizing body for all international sports events to be hosted by the Philippines in the future. The POC also countered this as the Foundation does not have the recognition of the SEA Games Federation, the Olympic Council of Asia and the International Olympic Committee.
It, however, resulted to the resignation of Vargas. The POC is expected to hold another round of elections on 28 July.
Asked by Daily Tribune if he is taking immediate action in settling the SEA Games hosting issue, Duterte said he is giving the POC a freehand in organizing the biennial multi-sports event.
“Yes, it should be (the POC),” the President said.
“First, it should be the government,” Duterte reiterated as he referred to the PSC, which has control over the release of the budget for sports. It also determines if purchases related to the event are within bounds of government control and limitations.
“Government is the most interested in winning the medals. That Phisgoc Foundation only muddles up the issue. So many fingers are dipping into the hosting. It should only be government. I want just one, just the government,” the President said.
“This is how it should be. I will execute whoever will be responsible if we do not win medals. That chandelier should be strong enough to hold the bodies of the (PSC chairman and his commissioners) if they don’t deliver,” the President said in jest.