Diokno in-laws’ firm got P551-M projects
A company owned by the in-laws of Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno cornered government contracts in Sorsogon province worth P551 million in 2018 alone, according to records of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
Questions about the role of Diokno’s in-laws in the implementation of infrastructure projects in Sorsogon are expected to be raised in a public inquiry to be conducted by the House of Representatives in Naga City today.
House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr., a Camarines Sur representative, has called for the investigation after accusing the budget secretary of arbitrarily “inserting” P75 billion in the proposed budget of the DPWH for 2019.
Documents culled by the Inquirer showed that Aremar Construction Corp. entered into a joint-venture agreement with Bulacan-based CT Leoncio Construction and Trading in undertaking at least four major infrastructure projects in Sorsogon last year.
Andaya earlier disclosed that the Department of Budget and Management had granted CT Leoncio government projects long before Congress examined the proposed P3.8-trillion national budget for 2019.
Three road projects are in Casiguran town, whose mayor is Jose Edwin Hamor.
Hamor is the husband of Sorsogon Vice Gov. Ester Hamor, the mother of Diokno’s son-in-law, Romeo Sicat Jr.
The mayor dismissed allegations linking him to the construction projects in his hometown, claiming that he did not even know the owner of CT Leoncio and that he had no hand in the business dealings of his children.
He said he was neither aware that his stepson was married to Diokno’s daughter, Charlotte Justine.
Aremar’s biggest shareholder
Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) records, however, show that the mayor is the biggest shareholder of Aremar, which was incorporated in 2014 with an initial capitalization of P50 million.
The SEC documents also show that Sicat is among the directors of Aremar, whose registered office is at Barangay Timbayog, Casiguran town.
The Hamors’ daughter, Maria Minez Hamor, is the construction company’s director and the “authorized managing officer” of the joint venture between CT Leoncio and Aremar.
Other Aremar incorporators and directors are Martin Abner Sicat, Maria Charisma Sicat and Edmon Bautista.
During Question Hour on the House floor last month, Minority Leader Danilo Suarez claimed that the Hamors had benefited from the road projects in Sorsogon as the couple were both running in the May elections.
Mayor Hamor is a reelectionist while his wife is vying for the mayoral post in Sorsogon City.
The House later passed a resolution calling on President Duterte to fire Diokno for failing to justify the award to CT Leoncio of billions of pesos worth of projects in Sorsogon.
Diokno was summoned to Question Hour amid Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s claim that in the proposed budget for 2019 that the House had approved, Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo got P2.4 billion in pork for her district in Pampanga province, while Andaya was allocated P1.9 billion for his district in Camarines Sur.
Pork finances pet projects of lawmakers and is a source of kickbacks.
Notice to proceed
In a notice of award dated April 23, 2018, Sorsogon district engineer Efren Manalo informed Maria Minez that CT Leoncio and Aremar had won the contract for the project “Off-carriageway Improvement-Tertiary Road-Ariman-Casiguran Road” with a budget of over P47 million.
Three weeks later, Manalo sent Maria Minez a “notice to proceed” and a contract covering the project.
“Since the attached contract agreement with you for the above-stated contract has been approved, we hereby instruct you to proceed, effective upon the date of your receipt of this notice,” read a portion of Manalo’s letter.
Aremar and CT Leoncio also bagged contracts for the construction of the Barcelona-Casiguran Diversion Road costing P96 million, a tourism road in Bulusan National Park worth P115 million and the section of Daang Maharlika Road in Sorsogon worth P289 million.
In a previous statement, Andaya said CT Leoncio and Aremar were able to get a “chunk” of the P10 billion in infrastructure projects earmarked for Sorsogon in 2018 ostensibly with the help of Diokno.
Diokno has vehemently rejected allegations of wrongdoing thrown at him, saying his decision not to release P42 billion in Road Board funds ignited his tiff with allies of Speaker Arroyo.
But Road Board records released by Andaya’s office showed that both Andaya and Suarez were not among the House members who had requested projects to be financed by the road user’s tax.
“Just because it was approved by Congress does not erase the fact that it was Secretary Diokno who approved the allocations for Sorsogon,” Andaya said.
“After trying to hide his scheme with congressional imprimatur, he now goes against the very people he has duped all along.”
Andaya noted that the budget secretary had the final say on projects to be submitted to Congress.
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