Ombudsman to probe flood control ‘scam’
January 10 2019 01:01 AM
Budget Secretary
From left: Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Ombudsman Samuel Martires, and House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr.

By Glee Jalea/Manila Times

The Office of the Ombudsman has sought documents from the House of Representatives in preparation for a probe into the alleged flood control scam in Sorsogon involving Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno and his daughter’s in-laws, House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr said yesterday.
Andaya said Ombudsman investigators had requested copies of testimonial and documentary evidence generated during a public inquiry in Naga City, Camarines Sur last January 3, the latest episode of the running feud between the Budget department and the House that has delayed the passage of the 2019 budget.
“Apparently, the Office of the Ombudsman has noticed red flags of corruption on the evidence presented and on the testimonies made during the hearing. We have seen these red flags of corruption ourselves,” Andaya said.
“The Ombudsman’s entry into the probe encourages us to dig deeper into the flood control scam and other questionable budget practices under (Budget) Secretary Benjamin Diokno,” he added.
Following protocol, Ombudsman Samuel Martires refused to confirm nor deny Andaya’s statements.
“It must be remembered that investigations conducted by the Field Investigation Office of the Office of the Ombudsman are highly confidential in nature,” Martires said in a statement.
Andaya, the budget secretary of former president and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, has thrown numerous accusations at Diokno, who has instituted budget reforms including cash-based budgeting that required funds to be used during the fiscal year, and transparent releases of funds to avoid corruption.
Andaya alleges that there was a conspiracy between the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and Aremar Construction Corp, to corner multi-million infrastructure projects in Casiguran, Sorsogon.
The House rules committee, led by Andaya, has issued subpoenas to officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and owners of Aremar Construction, the Hamor family, which Diokno allegedly favoured.
Summoned were Maria Minez Hamor, Casiguran Mayor Edwin Hamor, Sorsogon Vice Gov. Esther Hamor, and Aremar incorporator Romeo “Jojo” Sicat Jr and his wife, Charlotte Justine Sicat, the daughter of Diokno.
The Naga City hearing found no masterplan for flood control projects in Sorsogon. 
Lawmakers also questioned the use of at least eight “dummy accounts” allegedly by Aremar to manipulate biddings for flood-control projects. The Hamors have refuted allegations of colluding with other contractors, including CT Leoncio Construction and Trading, another firm said to have bagged billions worth of government contracts.
Diokno yesterday presented data showing that his agency did not favour a particular district for flood control projects under the DPWH.
“I have not manipulated the budget to ensure the inclusion of projects in a favoured district particularly the flood control structures under the DPWH,” he told reporters in a news briefing. Citing DBM and DPWH figures, the Budget chief reported that Sorsogon ranked seventh among provinces with the largest allocation under the Flood Mitigation Structures and Drainage Systems programme of the General Appropriations Act of 2018, with P2.67bn.
Albay came first with P4.03bn, followed by Bulacan with P3.65bn, and Tarlac with P3.39bn in third place. Sorsogon was behind the provinces of Cavite, Pampanga and Cebu.
“The Flood Mitigation Structures and Drainage Systems programme ensures the effectiveness and efficiency of flood control facilities such as dikes, dam floodways, pumping stations, among others in all flood prone areas across the country,” the Budget chief underscored.
He also stressed that Sorsogon had a much smaller allocation of P377mn under the Flood Mitigation Facilities within Major and Principal Rivers programme of 2018, making it the 22nd province in terms of allocation.
The province of Pangasinan had the largest allocation with P2.14bn, Bulacan ranked second largest with P1.50bn, and Nueva Ecija ranked third with P1.19bn.
The Flood Mitigation Facilities within Major and Principal Rivers programme involves the construction and rehabilitation of flood mitigation facilities and structures to alleviate flooding in major river basins and principal rivers falls, Diokno explained.
“These allocations serve to bolster the resources of the Department of Public Works and Highways to curb the impact of stronger typhoons on the country brought about by climate change,” he said.

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