He said Andaya “seems to have a penchant for making wild accusations based solely on his own assertions and innuendos – devoid of any basis in fact or in law for the sole purpose of besmirching the good reputation of my client.”
Benjamin Diokno: 'Flood scam accusations illusory'
Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) - January 5, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno yesterday denied accusations raised against him by House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. regarding alleged anomalies in the awarding of contracts, as well as insertions in the 2019 budget.

“His accusations are illusory. The numbers are wrong and the narrative he’s selling is not grounded on facts,” Diokno said, referring to claims made by Andaya after a public hearing conducted by the House committee on rules on Thursday in Naga City, Camarines Sur.

Diokno stressed that claims that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) adjusted the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) budget without the latter’s knowledge were unfounded.

The budget chief said the original budget proposal of the DPWH was P652 billion, not P488 billion as claimed by Andaya during the Question Hour conducted on Dec. 11 last year.

The DBM then initially approved only P480.2 billion out of the P652-billion budget request of the DPWH.

However, Diokno said the DBM determined in the final phase of budget preparation that the total public infrastructure budget was still short of the government’s commitment, which is to spend at least five percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) for infrastructure.

Hence, the budget of the DPWH was adjusted by P75.7 billion, for a total budget proposal of P555.7 billion. Diokno said this was presented and approved by the Cabinet at a meeting on July 9, 2018.

“Given the adjustment, it was the DPWH that filled out their budgetary allocation with the specific project listing. The mandate of the DBM is limited to setting the budget ceiling and evaluating agency proposals by program, not by project because that is the role of the implementing agency,” Diokno said.

Furthermore, the secretary also argued that the DBM could not have anomalously allocated funds for flood control projects in favor of Casiguran, Sorsogon, which is the hometown of his in-laws.

Diokno’s daughter, Charlotte Justine, is married to Romeo Sicat Jr., the son of Sorsogon Vice Gov. Ester Hamor. Hamor’s husband, Edward, is mayor of Casiguran town.

He said DPWH’s original proposal for flood control projects was P132.5 billion, but only P114.3 billion was approved.

“More so, the DBM is not privy to the breakdown of DPWH projects per district. It is DPWH, as an implementing agency, that determines the specific project listing for the projects under each program and region,” Diokno said.

He also denied allegations that DBM had favored Bulacan-based CT Leoncio Construction and Trading and Sorsogon-based Aremar Construction in awarding contracts. Edward Hamor is reportedly a shareholder of Aremar.

“The DBM is not involved in the implementation of projects and awarding of contracts. Contracts are awarded to contractors after open and competitive bidding in accordance with Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act,” the budget chief said.

“Again, the role of the DBM is to set the budget ceiling for the line agencies and to evaluate whether their programs are aligned with the government’s priorities,” he added. 

Meanwhile, a lawyer-spokesman for the Hamor family said owners of Aremar Construction have not committed plunder.

“The use of ‘dummies,’ assuming it is true, is not a predicate crime of plunder. There is no malversation of funds, no acceptance of a bribe by a government official, no misappropriation of government assets or establishment of a monopoly or taking advantage of an official position,” lawyer Ryan Figueras said in a statement emailed to journalists.

The use of dummies, if true, “is not even a crime,” he stressed.

“There is no law punishing it. If at all, it will subject the contractor who allowed himself to be used as a supposed dummy to the administrative penalty of one-year suspension of his license,” he added.

Figueras pointed out that if Andaya believes that plunder was committed, the contractors who supposedly deposited funds in Aremar’s bank accounts should be included in the planned filing of a plunder case.

“Why did he cover the name of the depositor in the deposit slip he showed yesterday? Who is that supposed Triple A contractor that is also supposedly part of the convoluted scheme he is trying to paint and simply singled out my client who was not even involved in the preparation of that deposit slip?” he asked.

He said Andaya “seems to have a penchant for making wild accusations based solely on his own assertions and innuendos – devoid of any basis in fact or in law for the sole purpose of besmirching the good reputation of my client.”

“It seems that the good congressman is trying to employ scare tactics on my client who has not committed anything wrong except that he has an accidental relation by affinity to his real target – Sec. Ben Diokno,” he said. 

On Thursday, Casiguran Mayor Edwin Hamor refuted allegations that his daughter’s construction firm cornered P551 million in government contracts from the DPWH in 2018. His daughter is Maria Minez Hamor.                       

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