"We’re seeing the downfall of the accusers."
We witnessed recently what appeared to be an all-out attack aimed at discrediting the organizers of the highly successful 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games held in the last quarter of 2019. But the blitzkrieg appears to have failed in spectacular fashion as the very people who were relentlessly attacked in public are the ones left standing.
Last Friday (November 27), Cavite 8th District Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino was reelected as president of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC). By receiving a fresh mandate despite the muck that had been flung at him the past months, Tolentino has been vindicated in his efforts to ensure that the biennial regional sports event would bring pride and glory to the nation. His victory in the POC election should also help lay to rest the allegations of irregularities that have been thrown at the organizers of the SEA Games themselves.
Tolentino came into the election with the cards stacked against him. He was, after all, head of the POC for only little more than a year after winning in a special election in July 2019. His opponent, Clint Arañas, had filed a petition for his disqualification (along with four other officials from his party) on various grounds, including conflict of interest relating to SEA Games matters, lack of time to be eligible to run, and a suspended corporate license.
Arañas was one of the POC members pressing the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) to immediately submit its audited financial statements on the expenses for the country’s hosting of the SEA Games, even though he knew very well that the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) finished remitting its financial assistance only on September 4, 2020 or almost 10 months after the event.
It was a good thing the election committee, chaired by Atty. Teodoro Kalaw IV, threw out Arañas’ petition because as it turned out, the POC wanted Tolentino to remain as its president. With a convincing 30-22 win, Tolentino now has a full opportunity to turn the country’s sports program around and lead our athletes to greater heights.
Taguig-Pateros First District Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano, who had worked together with Tolentino for the 30th SEA Games when Cayetano was the chair of PHISGOC, acknowledges the lawmaker’s crucial role in the Philippine effort to regain the overall championship in the biennial sporting event.
“His reelection,” Cayetano said, “signifies the vote of confidence by the leaders of the national sport associations in a more progressive and responsive leader…We hope that the POC leadership will continue to inspire and provide our athletes with the support they need during competitions.”
The vote of confidence also indirectly applies to Cayetano himself. As PHISGOC chair, he led the Herculean effort to mount one of the biggest SEA Games in history, and its resounding success as an international event will long be remembered. But along with the success came the inevitable accusations that ranged from irregularities to incompetence—charges that made absolutely no sense given how the organizers managed to pull off one of the best-staged games the region has seen. Indeed, as has been pointed out, any case of irregularity or incompetence would have resulted in a disastrous SEA Games.
That we are now celebrating and not condemning the 30th SEA Games’ first anniversary shows that Filipinos look back to those two weeks with fondness and pride, not anger and shame. A year’s worth of mudslinging against Cayetano, Tolentino, and other people involved in the staging of the games has accomplished nothing but bring about the downfall of their accusers.
DTI agency in Senate crosshairs
This time, it’s the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) that’s being targeted by the Senate for alleged wrongdoing.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon has charged that the state trading company Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC) is using “a devious scheme” to illegally keep at least P1 billion in government funds instead of remitting the money to the nation’s coffers for possible spending for urgent pandemic or disaster response.
The lawmaker alleged that the PITC had “shortchanged” the government by holding on to the interests generated by the money it had received from various state agencies for purchasing goods and services in violation of the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines, or Presidential Decree No. 1445.
“We are being taken for fools. What they are remitting to the government is loose change compared to the billions of pesos that they are able to rake in,” he said in the course of his close scrutiny of the proposed P4.5-trillion national budget for next year.
The DTI is not among the offices that’s believed to be mired in corruption compared to, say, the Bureau of Internal Revenue or the Bureau of Customs. If it has managed to steer clear of controversy, it’s because its job is to monitor prices and facilitate domestic and foreign trade. Now, an agency under it is said to have become involved in wrongdoing.
Let’s see how Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez responds to Drilon’s allegations.