DIOKNO IN HIS DOOM: HOUSE TO UNMASK ACCOMPLICES
Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno is in hot water as the House of Representatives will unmask his accomplices in the Department of Public Works and Highways, to find out how he was able to “insert” billions in the department’s proposed budget for 2019, announced by majority leader Rolando Andaya, Jr.
He said that this collaboration of the Budget Secretary and senior officials of DPWH might be the reason billion peso-funds in supposed to be budget for flood-control projects are allocated by the Department of Budget to Casiguran and other parts of the Sorsogon province.
The House committee on rules which he chairs, will subpoena the senior public works officials including Ma. Catalina Cabral, Undersecretary for Planning and PPP (Public- Private Partnership); Rafael “Pye” Yabut, Senior Undersecretary for Regional Operations in Luzon; and Patrick Gatan, Project Director of Flood Control Management Cluster.
The committee is to set yet for the next hearing—and to issue also a subpoena duces tecum for the DPWH official documents and transaction records related to the flood control projects of 2017 and 2018.
Andaya earlier accused the DBM of inserting more than P14.5 billion in “unprogrammed funds” into the proposed national budget for 2019 before submitting the national expenditure program (NEP) to Congress.
The amount was part of the P75 billion that the DBM inserted into the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Andaya said.
Andaya, however, said that the additional amount did not go to priority projects but instead to flood-control projects, which according to him: “[It]…can easily be cheated.”
Diokno is under accusations of committing a clear case of conflict of interest after known that the in-laws of his daughter are behind the construction firm that bagged billions of pesos worth of projects in the Province of Sorsogon.
Andaya deduced this accusation to be a “top-level conspiracy in the multi-billion peso flood control scam”—which might involve high rank officials of the government. “At the very least, the testimonies and evidence point to DBM Sec. Benjamin Diokno in conspiracy with a senior DPWH official,” he said.
However, the majority leader expressed doubts that Public Works Secretary Mark Villar is one of the main—or not, as one accomplice of this budget 2019 scam. He said that there is a possibility that Villar was only “blind-sided” by DPWH officials involved in the flood-control budget scam. Andaya then waives for cooperation, “We hope he can help us get the bottom of this.”
“Only Viber Messages”
Furthermore, Andaya said that the testimonies of the DPWH regional offices and district offices in Bicol were very clear: Top DPWH officials have been ignoring all along the Department Order No. 23 to bypass strict requirements for the flood control projects.
Typically, per Department Oder No. 23 requirement, the requests of district officers should go through regional offices, he explained. But not in this case. “It goes directly to district engineers and avoid the paper trail, there are no written orders or instructions. Only Viber Messages,” he said. Andaya highly believes that there is an authority that clearly gives orders to shortcut the stringent process of these projects.
“These flood control projects submitted by the district engineers are then used to come up with a list of projects for approval by Sec. Diokno,” Andaya said. “That’s why Sec. Diokno’s line of defense is saying that all requests go through the DPWH. It’s because he has an accomplice, a conduit inside.”
As the case deepens, he said that there is high probability on why government funds ranging up to millions go to Aremar Construction—owned by Sec. Diokno’s son- and daughter-in-law in Casiguran. Diokno’s daughter Charlotte is married to Romeo “Jojo” Sikat Jr., the son of Sorsogon Vice Governor Ester Hamor with her previous partner.
Andaya assures then that the next probe will clear all the questions piled up by this case
“We will identify them in the next hearing,” he said.
Photo from ABS-CBN News