Lacson Ends 2007 with Resolution to Probe ASEAN Preps Mess

Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson ended Year 2007 with a resolution seeking an investigation into alleged irregularities in the Cebu government’s preparations for the 12th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit last January. 

Lacson said he intends to bring up the matter before the floor when the Senate resumes regular session on Jan. 21, 2008, and to schedule the hearings for it soonest.

“The resolution must be read on the floor before it is sent to the appropriate committee, in this case, the Blue Ribbon Committee. Once it is sent to the Blue Ribbon Committee, I will work for the scheduling of the hearings, which I hope will start soonest,” he said.

He added Congress needs to strengthen laws on procurement (Republic Act 9184) and the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act 3019) to avoid abuses and to prevent similar irregularities from occurring in the future.

Earlier, Lacson cited information he received that the construction of the Cebu International Convention Center (CICC), the venue of the summit, was overpriced by at least P50 million.

Other alleged irregularities involved P500 million in overpriced decorative lampposts and P83 million in non-working closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras.

“Incidents of graft such as the one surrounding the Asean summit threaten to defeat the government’s drive to encourage foreign and international groups to hold their conventions in the Philippines,” Lacson noted.

Lacson’s bid for an investigation stemmed from a request from businessman Crisologo Saavedra, who said some P3.5 billion in taxpayers’ money was squandered for government projects leading to the Asean summit last January.

Saavedra also accused Cebu officials led by Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia of involvement in negotiated contracts and selective bidding processes in preparing the venue for the summit.

But Gov. Garcia said that while the provincial government spent P581.273 million for the CICC, this was way below the P637.4 million allocated for the project.