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POC denies involvement with PHISGOC

The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) reiterated that it has nothing to do with the embattled Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (Phisgoc) Foundation, Inc., a private body that aimed to organize the 30th SEA Games, but is now the subject of investigation due to alleged corruption and other irregularities.

Acting POC president Joey Romasanta said the formation of Phisgoc Foundation was done without POC executive board approval that eventually led to the resignation of one of its eight original incorporators in Ricky Vargas as POC president.

Based on its Articles of Incorporation filed before the Securities and Exchange Commission in July of last year, Phisgoc Foundation was formed to organize the biennial meet as well as other international games that the country would host in the future.

It also aimed to receive, manage and disburse fund, monies and properties derived from sponsorship, donation, grant and subsidy and allocate it for the purposes of the corporation. It also wants receive all income and funds derived from the holding of the SEA Games and other future international competitions and be responsible for its disbursements.

Aside from Vargas, also included as incorporators were former POC chairman Tom Carrasco, former POC secretary general Patrick Gregorio and former communications director Ed Picson as well as members of Phisgoc chairman Alan Peter Cayetano's inner circle in Ramon Suzara, Monica Anne Mitra, Donaldo Caringal and Dexter Estacio.

However, neither of the POC board members nor Philippine Sports commissioners were part of the core group of Phisgoc, which is against the previous agreement where Cayetano will be the organizing committee chairman with PSC chairman William "Butch" Ramirez and Vargas as his co-chairmen.

Romasanta said they were not informed of the new set up and everything that Phisgoc did doesn't have any board resolution.

"Phisgoc has been existing without the recognition of the POC," said Romasanta. "Mr. (Jose) Cojuangco was ousted in February, then they incorporated Phisgoc in July of last year. We only found out its existence in March. So it means that from July last year to March this year, they have been operating without board approval from the POC executive council."

"That's why when we asked Mr. Vargas about it, all he did was to tender his irrevocable resignation. He didn't shed light on his involvement. We're still in the dark as to the activities and past dealings of Phisgoc Foundation."

Reports have it that Phisgoc is operating with a hefty war chest.

In fact, it already advanced P18 million from the PSC, P200 million from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation and an undisclosed amount from the SEA Games fund lodged with the PSC and several private sponsors.

There were also questions about its transactions with the catering, accommodation, transportation, apparel and other suppliers that prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to put it out of the SEA Games equation and delegate the role back to the government, specifically the PSC.

In statement by Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo, the Chief Executive also wanted to launch an investigation on the private body since massive government money amounting to P6 billion is involved.

"He (Mr. Duterte) said: 'There's so much corruption there with the private group. It disrupts the work of others.' That's why he wants to government to do it," Panelo said. "As a matter of standard procedure, if there is corruption, supposed to be the agencies concerned in the investigation must delve into that without being asked by the President."

Malacanang has given the POC executive board members an invitation to discuss the matter with Cayetano and former POC chairman Abraham Tolentino, but the meeting coincides with a crucial POC general assembly set today at the Manila Golf Club.

An International Olympic Committee representative will also be in attendance so there's no chance for them to turn it down.

"We're going to have a crucial general assembly meeting on Thursday and we can't cancel it. It was the IOC and OCA (Olympic Council of Asia) who called the meeting that will pave the way for the election of a new POC president," said Romasanta.

"Our suggestion is to set the Malacanang meeting after the 28 July elections. At least by then, we already have a new POC president."