2 lady senators exchange arguments on 2019 SEA Games facilities

Published November 10, 2020, 10:02 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senator Pia Cayetano on Tuesday lashed out at Senator Risa Hontiveros over the claims of anomalies on the construction of the sports facilities used for the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.

Sen. Pia Cayetano

An irked Cayetano stood in the Senate plenary to respond to Hontiveros’ privilege speech on the issues surrounding the sports facilities built by the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) in New Clark City, Capas, Tarlac.

Hontiveros called for a “full-scale” legislative inquiry on the sports facilities project, saying “there may be a remarkable degree of collusion in the funding and construction of this project.”

She said the BCDA’s joint venture with a Malaysian firm to build the sports facility could be “fake” and might only have been used to evade public bidding, and that funds for the project were taken from a “behest loan”.

Cayetano defended the project, saying: “This is a world-class stadium, built in record time…The SEA Games would not have been as successful as it was if we had only the dilapidated stadium of Rizal Memorial [Sports Complex] and Ultra [Philippine Sports Complex.”

She then asked Hontiveros if she had seen the facilities in New Clark City, citing how Filipino athletes appreciated it due to the lack of support they get from the government.

“I am embarrassed that we cannot even honor that. I am embarrassed that we choose to make a political issue out of a world-class facility,” Cayetano, a triathlete and sports advocate, started to raise her voice.

“Kaya tuloy wala nang mag-aabalang magpatayo ng matitino at kahanga-hangang infrastructure dito sa Pilipinas, dahil magpatayo ka lang nang maganda, eh sasabihin na sayo na may kalokohan ka. So paano, puro bulok na lang tayo? Para walang pumapansin, ganon?”

(That’s why no one would dare to build good and remarkable infrastructure here in the Philippines because if you built something beautiful, people would be quick to judge that you were involved anomalies. So will we just make do with dilapidated facilities? So that no one will call you out? Is that what we want?)

Cayetano also took offense with Hontiveros’ statement that the sports facilities could end up as a “white elephant”, reminding the latter that it will be used to train student athletes with the establishment of the National Academy for Sports.

She lamented that Hontiveros was supposedly using the Senate floor to malign the project that was dedicated to Filipino athletes.

“‘Yong kaisa-isang nagawa natin for them, binibigyan pa natin ng malisya. Kaya ‘yan ang mangyayari sa bansa natin, puro malisya tayo, puro panghuhusga (And we put malice in the only thing we did for them. That is why this happens to our country, we’re full of malice and judgement),” Cayetano said.

In response to Cayetano, Hontiveros said she was neither denying that the sports facilities were world-class nor downplaying the achievements and contributions of Filipino athletes to the country; and that her privilege speech focused only on holding people accountable for the possible corruption in its construction.

She pointed out that the issues she raised were from the Commission on Audit, which found irregularities in the BCDA projects for not going through a competitive bidding. She also noted that BCDA president Vince Dizon had been charged for graft over the issue.

“If the good colleague had caught most of my privilege speech, it probably would not have caused the good gentlelady as much distress…Maganda talaga ‘yong facilities (The facilities were remarkable), but does this excuse the possibility of cutting corners?” Hontiveros said.

“Ang aking mga tanong na ni-raise ay walang pagbabawas sa pagbigay ng halaga natin sa ating mga atleta, hindi binabawi ang ating suporta sa education and athletic support (The questions I raised do not in any way diminish the need to support our athletes and their education). Ito ay tungkol sa kung sa inobserbahan ba o hindi ang mga ayon sa batas ay dapat na inobserbahan (This is about whether or not the processes provided by law were observed by the BCDA),” she stressed

Before this, Cayetano said she wasn’t able to catch most of Hontiveros’ speech “except for the picture of the stadium that was built for the Southeast Asian Games”. 

She also admitted she was not fully aware of the details of the project and that she did not have the time to study it further due to her sponsorship of the CREATE bill. 

“I am sure there’s a logical reason…Hindi mag-aabala si Vince Dizon na magcut short ng corners para lang batikusin nang ganito,” Cayetano said.

The BCDA had previously maintained that the process it undertook for the construction of the SEA Games sports facilities was “completely legal and above board”.

Cayetano’s brother, former senator and Speaker, Taguig-Pateros Representative Alan Peter Cayetano, led the committee which organized the country’s hosting of the 30th SEA Games.