WHAT was Alan Peter Cayetano thinking?
This question popped up after the discovery that the former secretary of foreign affairs, now a candidate for Congress from Taguig, had asked for P7.5 billion to be placed at his disposal to run the Southeast Asian Games, whose organizing committee he is chairman of.
Well, I have news for Cayetano. Money can’t buy gold medals. Money can’t win medals. Talent can.
But, yes, a lot of money can buy a lot of things for whoever has it at his disposal. Cayetano should really learn from past episodes of people getting into trouble because they “handled” money meant for sports. The Sandiganbayan has been dealing with cases of missing, misused, and meandering funds going back to the 1991 SEA Games, and some of these cases are still pending. Some current and former sports officials are also still facing charges for alleged misappropriation of public funds.
According to Senator Loren Legarda, chair of the senate finance committee, Cayetano asked that a portion of the P17.044 billion allocated for the SEA Games be included in the DFA budget. Of this amount, Cayetano asked for P7.5 billion. Legarda, who obviously knew nothing about the SEA Games or sports as a whole, readily agreed, and didn’t even think to ask why the DFA was so heavily into sports.
Legarda probably relied simply on the word of Cayetano, a former colleague, that the money would go to the SEA Games. He wanted the money; she approved it.
Upon succeeding Cayetano as DFA chief, Teodoro Locsin Jr. reviewed the department budget that fell on his lap, saw what he thought was an anomalous entry, and called attention to it. Locsin was appalled not only by the insertion but by the hugeness of the outlay.
“Frankly, I would not have asked for a budget that big for sports even if I knew it was going to the PSC (Philippine Sports Commission.) Too huge,” remarked Locsin.
He suggested that the money be immediately transferred to the PSC. But he warned that because there was little time for the money to have any appreciable effect on the improvement of athletes, the SEA Games being less than a year away, people should keep a close watch on how the money is spent.
Indeed, we should, or government accounting authorities should, because a review of Cayetano’s breakdown of how he planned to spend the P7.5 billion raises a real concern.
Here’s how Cayetano broke down P7.5 billion: P1.371 billion for sports; P1.326 billion for venues; P1.525 billion for games services; P107 million for medical and doping; P368.6 million for athletes’ village operations; P125.32 million for volunteers; P47.8 million for accreditation and uniforms; P450 million for ceremonies; P296 million for broadcast and media; P525 million for PR and marketing; P55 million for international relations and protocol; P566 million for administration and finance; P38 million for human resources; P446 million for IT and telecommunications; and P250 million for security.
Perhaps, some items are justified. But why should the DFA be in charge of handling the financing of these? Since when was the DFA into sports management and promotion?
“This is the first time I am hearing that the sports facility budget is under the DFA,” Senate Minority Franklin Drilon said in an interview with the Manila Bulletin. “It has absolutely nothing to do with the mandate of the DFA, with all due respect.” Drilon said the money should go to the PSC.
Significantly, nothing in this list provided any amount for training, nutrition, equipment, additional coaches, foreign trips, or for upgrade of living quarters for athletes preparing for the SEA Games.
Thankfully, Cayetano is no longer the DFA chief and, perhaps, no longer the SEA Games organizing committee chairman. Perhaps athletes and coaches can now rest easy, and start hoping that the right agency would handle the money, to up the chances of it being spent for their benefit and the nation’s.