Third of four parts
IN September 2009, as the country prepared for the 25th Southeast Asian Games in Laos, Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr. shrugged off as “irrelevant” the plunder charges poised against him and Bacolod Rep. Monico Puentevella by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) over the diversion and misuse of P50.5 million SEA Games fund.
As far as Cojuangco was concerned, the “Philippine SEA Games happened in 2005” and facing the issue in 2009 at the height of preparations for the 25th Games was “irrelevant,” according to news reports. Cojuangco and Puentevella were being asked to account for the P50.5 million released to a non-government organization formed by Puentevella.
“I don’t understand why the liquidation problem came out again at this point when the country is on the verge of taking part in big competitions such as the Laos SEA Games. The action makes our people look bad and discredits the POC officials,” Cojuangco was quoted as saying.
He took a shot at PSC Chairman Harry Angping, saying Angping “should avoid issuing negative comments to fellow officials since it destroys their reputation and may have ill effects on the country’s image in international competitions.”
Angping went ahead with the plunder charges after Puentevella failed to explain how the money was spent. “Coming out with the unliquidated account is nothing personal and I am just doing my job to protect the people’s money,” he said.
The Commission on Audit (COA) found that the P50.5 million was advanced to Puentevella through the Bacolod SEAGames Organizing Committee—which was not registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission and is thus not qualified to transact or receive monies from the government.
Puentevella however claimed that he was singled out because the PSC excluded Cebusoc (Cebu SEA Games Organizing Committee) and the Philsoc (Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee) in the plunder charges.
Cebusoc, headed by Jonathan Guardo, has yet to liquidate P10 million in government assistance while Philsoc, headed by Cojuangco, has yet to liquidate a much bigger amount which, based on previous reports, could run close to P70 million.
He said the charges may have had something to do with his plans to run for Bacolod mayor in 2010 against someone with ties with Angping.
The 2005 Games did not escape criticism. The state of the venues came under fire. There were complaints that athletes had to travel for up to two hours to get to the competition sites.
Interestingly, the Philippine government made use of parks instead of its numerous stadiums for most of the events in Manila, Cebu, Bacolod and Subic to bring down cost and save it from spending so much on renovating existing facilities, according to an observation raised in Wikipedia.
Reviewing the conduct of the 23rd SEA Games in the Philippines, a foreign blogger said support was few and far between from government and private sector, hence awareness was minimal.