Lacson: SEA Games fund put in foundation like ‘Napoles case’
MANILA, Philipines — The transfer of P1.5 billion in public funds for the 30th Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) from the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) to a private group headed by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano was cast in the same mold as the P10-billion pork barrel racket, Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson on Wednesday said.
As in the pork barrel scam hatched by convicted businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, Lacson noted that taxpayer money was “questionably” lodged in the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee (Phisgoc), a private foundation created to oversee the country’s preparations and hosting of the biennial sports meet.
“That is questionable,” Lacson said in a television interview. “Remember, individuals had been charged and convicted using a private foundation as a repository of public funds. That’s the Napoles case.”
“After the SEA Games, if a member of the Senate blue ribbon committee will file a resolution or deliver a privilege speech in that regard, a Senate… inquiry is in order and will definitely be conducted,” he said in a text message to the Inquirer.
The Inquirer sought Cayetano’s comment on Lacson’s statements but neither he nor his staff gave a response through the Viber group of House reporters.
Lacson, who made the fight against pork barrel his personal crusade, recalled that in the criminal cases brought against Napoles and her coaccused, among them lawmakers, private foundations were used as “parking lots for public funds coming from the expenditure program of [the] government.”
Asked if the fund transfer was unlawful, he said: “We have yet to see that because there are justifications put forward by [Cayetano] when he appeared as a resource person during the budget deliberations of the PSC and BCDA (Bases Conversion and Development Authority).”
Lacson said the Speaker had assured senators that Phisgoc had consulted the Commission on Audit “in every step of the way.”
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., meanwhile, said he had nothing to do with the P7.5-billion budget for the Games that had been inserted in the budget of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
He said on Twitter on Tuesday that someone had asked him to keep the P7.5 billion in the DFA’s 2019 budget.
Locsin did not say who made the proposition but said he ordered the funds returned to the treasury when he assumed the DFA post in October last year.
Turned over to DBM
The SEA Games budget was inserted in the DFA budget for this year since Locsin’s predecessor, now Speaker Cayetano, was the one who took on the role of lead organizer.
“He wanted me to keep the P7.5 billion in DFA and I would manage it from my office after which I will go to jail. I returned it to (former budget secretary) Ben Diokno in DBM (Department of Budget and Management),” Locsin tweeted on Tuesday.
“The President was surprised. Nobody returned money that big. Well I do,” he added.
He said he purposely returned the money to the DBM and not to the PSC, where the fund was eventually lodged, because “I didn’t trust the PSC.”
“I was told that a senator wanted it parked in PSC. But my order was to return it to Ben Diokno in DBM. Parked. Ano ba yan car? Alan (Cayetano) lost that fund completely,” Locsin said.
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