The Office of the Ombudsman is now looking into allegations of corruption against the organizers of the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Ombudsman Samuel Martires said he already created a seven-man panel of investigators to probe how the funding for the 30th SEA Games was utilized.
“We are actually into that. I have just created a panel to conduct fact-finding investigation,” Martires said.
“If we see evidence, then we will be forced to file a case against those officials involved in the alleged corruption,” he added.
All agencies involved in the staging of the SEA Games are covered of the investigation, including the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (Phisgoc) chaired by House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano despite it being a private entity.
“We can’t come up with an investigation without Phisgoc. We cannot be selective in our investigation. We have to see the participation of every official of Phisgoc — every official involved in the SEA Games,” Martires said.
“As you know, there are cases that the Ombudsman filed in the Sandiganbayan about private individuals in conspiracy with government officials.”
Martires said the probe would likely be completed any time within the year.
The Phisgoc has been in trouble over its messy preparation leading to the country’s hosting of the biennial meet.
In fact, in an exclusive interview with Daily Tribune, President Rodrigo Duterte stressed that he doesn’t want to have a “foundation” dipping its fingers on the country’s SEA Games hosting, which has a budget of more than P6 billion of government money.
But the hosting was marred with various troubles as reports of extravagance and incompetence surfaced days before the opening ceremonies.
Some lawmakers even questioned the SEA Games cauldron, which Phisgoc erected for more than P50 million.
Cayetano said he welcomes the investigation by the Ombudsman.
“I already announced that 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,” he said.
“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 and honoring the sacrifices of our workforce and volunteers.”
The House Speaker also maintained that there is no anomaly in the staging of the SEA Games.
“Thousands of Filipinos worked hard and faithfully to make the Games the success that it is. There is no anomaly here.”
In his statement, the House Speaker also vowed to go against those who “plotted against the SEA Games and put politics over the country” and those who spread “fake news,” against the Games.
He also appealed to his critics to conduct probe against SEA Games organizers come 12 December, or right after the closing ceremonies, so that national athletes would not lose their focus in winning the overall title.
Prior to that, Cayetano also ordered the Commission on Audit to launch an independent investigation on the government money used for the SEA Games.