Diokno, kin invited to House probe on budget anomalies, says Andaya
Updated (5:54 p.m.)
PAMPANGA, Philippines — The House rules panel has invited Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, his daughter, Charlotte Justin, and his in-laws who are incorporators of Aremar Construction Corp. to the resumption of the committee’s probe into alleged budget anomalies on Jan. 15.
House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. announced this on Friday, adding that the panel also sent subpoenas to senior officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways, Anti-Money Laundering Council, Bureau of Internal Revenue and Department of Budget and Management, as well as the individual who acted as the liaison officer of C.T. Leoncio Construction in dealing with government contracts.
“We expect full cooperation and full disclosure from those invited to the hearing as they will be testifying under oath. We also expect to be provided with documentary evidence that could shed light on the anomalous budget practices of the DBM and questionable allocations for DPWH, which we uncovered during the previous hearing,” the Camarines Sur congressman said.
Andaya said this would be the proper forum for government officials to air their side on the issues at hand.
Duterte not intervening
House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, meanwhile, said she recently met President Rodrigo Duterte to discuss the 2019 national budget. Arroyo refused to disclose more details, but she said Duterte was “definitely not” preventing the chamber from conducting an investigation.
“He respects the two Houses, the separation of powers,” the Pampanga congresswoman said in an interview in Batang 1st, Sasmuan, Pampanga.
Andaya has been accusing Diokno of “inserting” some P75-billion infrastructure fund in the proposed 2019 national budget without the knowledge of President Rodrigo Duterte, the DPWH, as well congressmen whose districts would benefit from the programs.
Diokno said the P75 billion should not be called “insertions” as these were “adjustments” that were part of the budget process.
Andaya has also been claiming that several contractors — which cornered billions in pesos of infrastructure projects— are being used as dummies of Aremar Construction Corp., a company owned by Diokno’s in-laws.
Aremar is owned by Maria Minez Hamor, the daughter of Casiguran Mayor Edward Hamor. The said mayor is the step-father of Romeo Sicat Jr. who is married to Diokno’s daughter. Edward is a re-electionist while his wife, Ester — Sicat’s mother — is running for Sorsogon mayor.
Diokno and Mayor Hamor have dismissed the accusations. The budget chief said the allegations were a mere diversion from the pork barrel issue, while Hamor slammed it as a “scare tactic.”
Diokno has already refused to appear before the House probe.
Andaya started his exposès after Senator Panfilo Lacson alleged that that the House Speaker got P2.4 billion in “pork barrel” funds while the Camarines Sur congressman got P1.9 billion. Both denied Lacson’s allegations. /ee
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