Pacquiao’s own fake news to blame for the P3.5 billon Sarangani sports center controversy

Senator Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao thought he could outsmart the Filipino people, and President Duterte.

Two years ago, Pacquiao managed to push two bills into law: Republic Act No. 11214 and 11224. The first one authorized the creation, development and operation of a Philippine Sports Training Center (PSTC) for which the amount of P3.5 billion was appropriated. The second one creates the Sarangani Sports Training Center in the Municipality of Alabel, Sarangai province, with no fund appropriation in the law.

And when President Duterte signed RA 11214 into law in March 2019, Pacquiao profusely thanked the Chief Executive for making it happen. He said the PSTC will find a home in Sarangani province to provide state-of-the-art training facilities for future medal-winning athletes from around the country. He plastered the websites of the Sarangani Provincial Government and the Sarangani Sports Training Center with this press release:

Nothing has been heard about the project until lately, when Pastor Apollo Quiboloy bared pictures of a few structures at the SSTC where the P3.5 billion was supposed to have been spent (in Pacquiao’s own words). Quiboloy had every reason to complain, because what was shown on these pictures could not possibly have cost more than P100 million. From all indications, the project was overprice, and abandoned. Pacquiao’s own story supported Quiboloy’s assertion that public funds were wasted.

But upon investigation, I found out that the P3.5 billion is intact in the hands of the Philippine Sports Commission which is the custodian of the money. The mandate to search for a site was placed in the hands of the PSC. Pacquiao must have thought he could use his influence to get the PSC to turn the SSTC into the PSTC to fulfill his claim that it will rise in his province. That was the reason he got a law enacted for the SSTC. It was a legal cover for him to allow fund transfers from the PSC. Otherwise, the SSTC was a purely local undertaking, and didn’t need an act of Congress to create.

Pacquiao’s dream to build the PSTC in Sarangani was frustrated by the PSC, which found the idea ludicrous. Why build a state-of-the-art athletes training center — complete with dormitories, playing venues and other facilities in the boondocks of Alabel, Sarangani? Who would want to train in such a faraway place? Hence, the PSC looked for a suitable location near the national capital.

Just last May 2021, the PSC finally found a willing host — the provincial government of Bataan, which donated 25 hectares in Mariveles. The land grant was formalized in the signing of the deed of donation on May 18, 2021 between Bataan Governor Albert Raymond Garcia and PSC Chairman William Ramirez.

The selection of Mariveles was done with its proximity to the national capital and the historical significance of the place where tens of thousands of Filipino and American soldiers sacrificed their lives in defense of the country against the Japanese invading forces in World War II.

This must have been a big letdown for Pacquiao, who had wanted to build a Taj Mahal in his home province — a P3.5 billion athletes training center — when his own constituents remain poor and thousands are homeless. I can only speculate at how he tried to persuade PSC to give him the P3.5 billion and spend it lavishly on the SSTC.

Crafting two laws for almost exactly the same purpose was a clever trick Pacquiao tried to pull on the Filipino people.

First, he knew that RA 11214 creating the PSTC cannot spefically designate Sarangani as the place where it will rise. It would have drawn opposition so quickly and get it shot down. Hence, he had to create a mechanism that would make pole-vaulting the funds to Sarangani legal. Create the SSTC by operation of law. There’s no need for a law to create the SSTC. By all standards, it was a purely local project. That would make it hard for Pacquiao to transfer the P3.5 billion to the SSTC and transform it into the PSTC. Somebody must have given him the idea to create an entity under the law, which he did by virtue of RA 11224.

With those two laws standing side by side, Pacquiao had a perfect and legal mechanism to accomplish his dream of building a Taj Mahal of his own: a dream all-around training center that will be the envy of athletes from other cities and provinces and municipalities. In RA 11224 creating the SSTC, Pacquiao inserted the phrase in Section 3 that the project can draw funds from the government (PSC), “and such funds as may be granted by the PSC and the Office of the President.”

It’s a good thing PSC resisted such devious scheme hatched by Pacquiao. That project would have become a white elephant.

Pacquiao could not blame Quiboloy and Sass Sassot and other pro-Duterte bloggers for raising questions about the project. The last public pronouncement on record attributable to him was that the P3.5 billion was to be poured into Sarangani. For all intents and purposes, anybody who came across his press release two years ago and looked at the project will have reason to conclude the money was misused, or even stolen.

This controversy is karma for Pacquiao. He said his reputation was tarnished because of the fake news. If it is fake news, he has only himself to blame. He was too quick to claim the amount of P3.5 billion for Sarangani. That was his own fake news.

It’s a classic illustration of Pacquiao getting a dose of his own medicine. Last month, he accused the Duterte administration of squandering P10 billion in a totally baseless manner. He presented stacks of bond paper to make them look like documents to support his claim. However, it was too obvious these were reams and reams of bond paper that had nothing in them. Now his own fake news came back to put him in a huge embarrassing situation

About Manuel "Boy" Mejorada
Manuel "Boy" Mejorada is a journalist and social media activist. A former Iloilo provincial administrator, he is now waging a crusade against corruption and narco-politics.

One Response to Pacquiao’s own fake news to blame for the P3.5 billon Sarangani sports center controversy

  1. Bachelors Nickilo says:

    nah, your giving Pacquiao too much credit… he is stupid AF.


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