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APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE SET TO ISSUE SUBPOENA TO SECRETARY DIOKNO FOR ABSENCES



The House Committee on Appropriations chaired by Rep. Rolando Andaya (1st District, Camarines Sur) is set to issue a subpoena against Budget and Management Secretary Benjamin Diokno after snubbing for the fifth time the panel's inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the alleged irregular allocation and budget practices under the DBM official's watch.

Andaya stressed that there have been so many questions left unanswered by Diokno over the P75 billion insertions, flood control scam in Sorsogon, the P190 billion items and services secretly being bidded out in a small office called Procurement Service-DBM and the P390 billion savings generated by DBM in 2017.

“I understand, the head of PS-DBM, Ms. Bingle Gutierrez, had been dismissed or replaced by the DBM after she actually volunteered information regarding the office. I have no idea who replaced her,” said Andaya.

Diokno's office sent a letter to the Committee, but Andaya did not bother to read Diokno's excuse letter. “I really do not know where he gets that very thick facial façade. Exotic leather na yata ito,” said Andaya.

If there is anything that President Rodrigo Duterte should be dismayed about, Andaya said it is not the performance of his supposedly “poster boy for integrity." He said the President should talk to Diokno.

“I welcome a private meeting with the President anytime. The name of the President has been unduly dragged into each and every conversation we had. Maybe this time around, if they are willing. I can go to a one-on-one meeting (with him), together with the Speaker, to actually explain what is going on and what is causing all of these delays,” Andaya said.

Andaya said he is leaving Diokno’s fate to the Committee members on the matter of show cause order. “Of course, he (Diokno) will insist that is not a subpoena, but it is a show cause order for him why he should not be cited in contempt."

“In practical terms, this is the fifth time. Nung third time, sinabi ko na kung sa baseball, strike out ka na. Ngayon sa basketball, foul out ka na. Naka-lima ka na. So, I really don’t know what to do with our poster boy with integrity,” said Andaya.

House Committee on Constitutional Amendments Chairman Rep. Vicente "Ching" Veloso (3rd District, Leyte) moved to issue a subpoena to Diokno to attend the Committee’s hearing on Friday and explain why he should not be cited in contempt for repeatedly snubbing the proceedings.

Veloso stressed there were matters that had to be explained, particularly by the Budget Secretary. “I therefore move that a subpoena be issued for him to appear in the next hearing,” said Veloso.

During the hearing, which lasted for three and half hours, Francis Clemete, Liaison Officer of the C.T. Leoncio Trading and Construction was very evasive in answering questions. Clemente denied that C.T. Leoncio did not corner all the projects for the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

“Unang-una po, hindi po namin naka-corner ang mga projects. Natatandaan ko po noong 2018, sa Sorsogon First District, 18 projects po. Sa Sorsogon Second District, 10 projects,” said Clemente.

Clemente revealed that Consolacion Leoncio, owner of C.T. Leoncio Trading and Construction was the one responsible in preparing and signing all the bid documents for the DPWH projects.

“Wala po akong pinipirmahan sa dokumento. Pumipirma lang po ako sa attendance sa bidding,” said Clemente when asked by Andaya if he signed any bid document or paper attesting to the veracity or truthfulness submitted to the DPWH.

Meanwhile, Andaya told Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) Sorsogon Branch Manager Leonora Ariola that the LBP accepted six deposit slips amounting to P81 billion all coming from legitimate contractors.

“Coming in within five months, what can you share to this committee. Do you know anything about that?” asked Andaya.

Ariola said she is not aware of the six bank deposits and refused to answer the question for she might be violating the Bank Secrecy Law and the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA).

Ariola said she can only tell the procedure of the bank, but refused to give details as to the disclosure of information related to their clients' account.

Minority Leader Danilo Suarez said the issue is very relevant because of the huge amount deposited in Land Bank Sorsogon in a period of five months.

“Dito sa Land Bank Batasan nag-deposito ako ng P200,000 tinatanong ako kung saan galing, eh. Dun sa case ninyo, nag-deposito ng P81 million in a period of five months and there was no query at all or no reporting to the AMLC about the amount being deposited,” said Suarez.

To answer the question which started all of the investigation on where the P75 billion insertions came from, Andaya said he will not advance any information but will let the resource person say it.

Milagros Manaysay, Chief of the DPWH Programming Division Planning Service, said the P75 billion insertion is not part of the DPWH budget submission as stated by DPWH Secretary Mark Villar.

Manaysay confirmed that the allocation given by the DBM to the DPWH was P480 billion. “The P75 billion came from the DBM,” said Manaysay.

Glen Degal of the Programming Division told the panel that he was called by DBM Undersecretary Amina Pangandaman and was instructed to go to DMB-Bureau A to help re-format a software copy (USB) containing P51 billion worth of projects.

Froilan Mabini Jr. said the USB that was given to them only contains the list of project names and allocation. “Hindi po nakalagay kung anong engineering district,” said Mabini.

The panel will invite DBM Undersecretary Pangandaman, DPWH Undersecretaries Roberto Bernardo and Catalina Cabral and C.T. Leoncio to attend the hearing on Friday.  

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