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Cayetano allies shield Phisgoc

Bea Micaller

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The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) executive board met strong resistance from allies of ousted Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano before formally deciding to file charges against the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (Phisgoc).

In a special board meeting yesterday, POC president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino and secretary general Edwin Gastanes did their best to protect Cayetano and Phisgoc from the breach of contract charges that the Olympic council was set to file.

Tolentino and Gastanes voted against the filing of charges together with former POC president Ricky Vargas and board member Cynthia Carrion.

A lawmaker from Cavite, Tolentino served as chairman of the powerful committee on accounts under the 15-month leadership of Cayetano in the House of Representatives.

He was also in the payroll of Phisgoc as sports director with a salary of P81,344 for the month of September 2018.

Gastanes is a Tolentino appointee while Vargas was one of the eight incorporators of Phisgoc together with close Cayetano allies in Ramon Suzara, Donaldo Caringal, Dexter Estacio and Monica Mitra.

Carrion was the first to admit that she was in Phisgoc payroll as manager of ceremonies with a salary of P65,102 for September 2018 as well.

Favoring the filing of case, meanwhile, were POC directors Clint Aranas and Robert Mananquil, 1st vice president Joey Romasanta, 2nd vice president Jeff Tamayo, auditor Jonne Go and treasurer Julian Camacho.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) representative to the country Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski abstained, but made it clear that she is favoring the motion to give Phisgoc another 15 days to submit the audited financial report.

Athletes’ commission representative Nikko Huelgas also abstained.

Cayetano’s allies did their best to prevent the POC from filing charges against Phisgoc that Gastanes wanted to have Mananquil, Camacho and Tamayo barred from casting their votes, saying that their sports — billiards, wushu and soft tennis — are not Olympic sports.

“As you can see, the ones who voted against the filing of Phisgoc are mostly the ones who allegedly received payments from Phisgoc. It looks like they are blocking the way for POC to hold Phisgoc accountable from these alleged claims,” Aranas said after emerging from the emotional board meeting.

The POC executive board has been trying its best to get a hold of the audited financial report of the country’s hosting of the SEA Games in accordance to the tripartite agreement they signed with the PSC.

The POC general assembly passed a resolution to put up a deadline of 10 October, but Phisgoc refused to move with Tolentino going on record, saying that he is not in favor of putting pressure on the controversial organizing body.

“This is a move to get hold of that financial report since it is already long overdue. The POC is not pushing anyone to the ground,” Aranas said, noting that the Commission on Audit gives only 60 days for a body that received government money to liquidate, but Phisgoc has yet to liquidate 10 months after the SEA Games.

“We just want enlightenment. We want everything to be accounted for.”

No reaction
Tolentino, however, refused to confirm or deny the exclusive story of Daily Tribune tagging him as among those who received money from Phisgoc for his work during the SEA Games.

According to the IOC charter, members of the NOC (national Olympic committees), except professional sports administrators, shall not accept compensation or bonus of any kind in consideration for their services or for the performance of their duties.”

The POC also asserted that its members, especially its officers, should perform their duties on “voluntary basis” to avoid conflict of interest.

But more than that, the tripartite agreement stressed that the POC is the oversight of Phisgoc and having its officers like Tolentino, who was the POC chairman at that time, in the payroll creates a bad taste.

Aranas said he asked Tolentino point blank if he was in the Phisgoc payroll.

“It was just a simple yes or no, but he couldn’t answer,” said Aranas, a taxation lawyer and former president of the Government Service Insurance System.

“The main agenda of the meeting were tackled, but we were also expecting some enlightenment from those who were part of the Phisgoc payroll during the SEA Games.”

Aside from Tolentino, Carrion and former POC deputy secretary general Karen Caballero, also mentioned in the POC organizational chart were Romasanta, Tamayo and Go.

Romasanta, however, strongly denied his involvement, saying that he was surprised to see his name in the Phisgoc structure as director of protocol and international relations.

Tamayo and Go also denied that they received money from the organizing body.

But Tolentino couldn’t say if he received payment or not.

“The quickest way to solve this is to answer everything with all honesty,” Tamayo, a long-time POC official, said.

“We are not the enemies here. We are trying to be part of the solution and not the problem, but clearly, president Bambol is seeing it otherwise. He did not deny or confirm his involvement so we are still lost.”

Tamayo said by keeping mum, Tolentino is tarnishing the integrity of the POC in the eyes of the public, especially the international sports community.

“The longer this thing happens, the more countries in Southeast Asia will see more negative in our institution and we don’t want that to happen,” he said.

“It’s already bad enough and we should be concerned about bigger issues which will keep Philippine sport growing and growing in the next few years.”

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