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Suzara clears up claims vs. PHISGOC

The Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizational Committee (PHISGOC) Foundation Inc. has complied with all the directives issued by President Duterte on the conduct of the biennial sports competition this year in the country, and has put in place safeguards to ensure that funds for the event are all accounted for and properly spent.

Ramon Suzara, PHISGOC Foundation Inc.'s chief executive officer, said both the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) are properly represented in the organizational committee and take part in all decisions of the body.

He also made it clear that the P5 billion budget approved by the Congress for the SEA Games this year, as well as the P1 billion augmentation fund approved by the President, are all lodged with the PSC. Not a single centavo of government funds is handled by the PHISGOC, Suzara noted.

"All government funds are duly accounted for, and are being disbursed in accordance with government procurement procedures performed either by the PSC or the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), as proposed by PHISGOC chairman, Congressman Alan Peter Cayetano, to ensure that every peso allotted for the SEA Games are wisely and properly spent," Suzara said in a statement.

He said that since the ideal budget for the SEA Games this year is around P7.5 billion, the PHISGOC helped make up for the remaining P1.5 billion shortfall by raising sponsorship funds which continue to grow as the Games draw near.

Suzara stressed that suggestions to either have the POC or PSC take over the organizational tasks just four months away from the conduct of the Games this November will unduly prejudice Filipino athletes and jeopardize the carefully set preparations for the event.

"All this talk about another body taking over the organization of the Games at this late period has not only caused apprehension among our athletes, but among our sponsors and private sector partners as well," Suzara said. "We appeal to both the POC and PSC to work together from within the PHISGOC, where they are both prominently represented as originally intended by the President, with his vision of a multi-stakeholder approach to the organization of the Games."

Suzara said that from the start, the President had not wanted either the POC or PSC alone to organize the Games, because he wanted the athletes, National Sports Associations (NSAs) and the government properly represented, which was the same approach done when Malaysia hosted the Games in 2017 and Singapore in 2015.

"Congressman Cayetano was chosen by the President as the consensus leader to lead this tripartite entity that is now PHISGOC. Even the POC officially recognized Congressman Cayetano when it appointed him as chairman and delegated the Games organization to PHISGOC," Suzara said.

Suzara reassured the public that even with these issues being raised now, "it's all systems go". for the Philippines' hosting of the 30th SEA Games, which Congressman Cayetano envisions to be "the biggest, best-hosted and most viewed ever, for the glory of the country and to bring pride to the Filipino people."

As for questions on why PHISGOC was incorporated and made into a foundation, Suzara said that this was to comply with the rules of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which requires the organizing body of the SEA Games to be a legal entity authorized to transact under the law. This was the same thing done during the country's hosting of the 1991 and 2005 Games. "In fact, it was even then POC president Peping Cojuangco and vice president Joey Romasanta who advised PHISGOC to have this entity incorporated," Suzara said.

Suzara added that when PHISGOC was formed, Cayetano saw to it that both the POC and PSC were well represented, with both the heads of these organizations serving as co-vice chairpersons of the body.

"Thus, all acts of the PHISGOC are duly authorized by its board and executive committee where both the POC and PSC are represented. With their inclusion in the board and even the management committees, the POC and PSC are able to exercise control and supervision over all transactions of the PHISGOC," Suzara said.

Suzara recalled that last Jan. 25, the President formally recognized the PHISGOC by issuing Memorandum Circular 56, which directs all government agencies and government-owned and controlled corporations to extend their full support to the body.

Moreover, the IOC, Olympic Council of Asia, and the SEA Games Federation and domestic and international sponsors also recognize the PHISGOC as the entity tasked to organize this year's SEA Games, Suzara said.

Suzara also assured the public that there "is absolutely no commingling of public and private funds for the SEA Games. Any disbursement or sponsorship are approved by the Executive committee of PHISGOC, whose financial statements will be audited by the Commission on Audit.

"In fact, Congressman Cayetano categorically turned down the offer of PSC chairman (Butch) Ramirez to give the entire P5 billion budget for the Games to the PHISGOC precisely to avoid the intermingling of funds and to ensure full transparency. It was also Mr. Cayetano who proposed that DBM oversee the procurement process for the Games to ensure that we comply with the law and the funds are spent prudently," Suzara said.