By Jovee Marie de la Cruz, January 4 2019; Business Mirror


Image Credit to Philippine Daily Inquirer

BUDGET Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno has allocated a total of P332 billion for flood-control projects from 2017 to 2019, including several in areas not at high risk of flooding, a leader of the House of Representatives disclosed on Thursday.

“For 2017 to 2018, the DBM has already allocated P213 billion for flood-control projects. Then an additional P119 billion for 2019 or a total of P332 billion for three years,” Majority Leader Rolando G. Andaya Jr. said at a hearing of the House Committee on Rules in Naga City.

The inquiry by the Rules panel which Andaya chairs comes just days after the Bicol region was hard-hit by Tropical Depression Usman, a weather disturbance apparently underestimated by many, but which brought days of nonstop rains, spawning landslides and flooding.  Most of the over 80 fatalities were from landslide-hit parts of Bicol.

Continuing his attacks on the Department of Budget and Management’s (DBM) policies under Diokno’s watch, Andaya said, “As I mentioned earlier, we have uncovered disturbing patterns in the manner that the DBM now allocates and disburses public funds. The most glaring is the allocation for flood- control projects.”

According to Andaya, P14.5 billion of flood-control projects is part of the questionable P75-billion additional insertions in the proposed 2019 General Appropriations Act.

Andaya also alleged that the DBM allocations for flood-control projects do not adhere to existing rules and guidelines of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

“We are in possession of a DPWH Department Order No. 23, series of 2015, outlining the guidelines and procedures for the implementation of flood-control and drainage/slope protection projects which are funded by the national government under the DPWH Infrastructure Program,” he said.

The ties that bind?

Meanwhile, Andaya accused Diokno of acting alone in allocating  flood-control funds in Casiguran, Sorsogon, where his in-laws are politicians and are owners of the Aremar Construction.

Casiguran Mayor Edward Hamor, the biggest shareholder of Aremar Construction, and his wife Sorsogon Vice Gov. Ester Hamor are the parents of Diokno’s son-in-law, Romeo Sicat Jr. who is married to the budget secretary’s daughter, Charlotte Justine.

Andaya said 19 villages in Matnog, Sorsogon are now suffering from flood due to the Tropical Depression Usman and yet these areas did not receive allocation under the 2019 budget.

“For 2019, zero budget for flood control in Matnog. But a whopping P385 million allocated for Casiguran, which has no threat of flooding now or in the next 25 years,” Andaya said

Andaya said that Aremar Construction has been allegedly using big-time or Triple A contractors as dummies to secure government projects. Andaya tagged  CT Leoncio Construction and Trading as one such “dummy.”

CT Leoncio Construction and Trading is a sole proprietorship owned and managed by Consolacion T. Leoncio. Its registered address is at 171 Luwasan Street, Guyong, Santa Maria, Bulacan.

“Acting on these tips and leads, we tried to study the pattern of allocation for flood-control projects and other infrastructure projects in Bicol region where my home province Camarines Sur is situated,” he said.

For 2018, Andaya said CT Leoncio Construction and Trading bagged at least 36 projects amounting to P1.6 billion in the provinces of Sorsogon and Catanduanes.

He said there are other projects undertaken by CT Leoncio in other parts of the country.

Also, Andaya claimed, CT Leoncio has been using a single backhoe since May 2018 in implementing five sample projects in Sorsogon, and that it only has three engineers for 40 projects.

Moro-moro lang daw ang nangyayari sa bidding. Ang trabaho talaga ng triple A contractors, makuha ang kontrata at ipahiram ang lisensya sa totoong gagawa ngprojects. Sa ating kaso ngayon, lumalabas nadummy lamang ang CT Leoncio. Ang totoong may-ari ng proyekto: ang Aremar Construction [We learned that the biddings were a sham. The Triple A contractors strive to bag projects and then lend their license to the actual implementor. In this case, it appears the dummy is CT Leoncio. The real project owner is Aremar],” said Andaya.

For her part, Consolacion Leoncio, owner of CT Leoncio Construction and Trading, claimed that she did not know the in-laws of Diokno and only his liaison officer Francis Clemente, who has been preparing all her business documents. The lower chamber has subpoenaed Clemente.

Andaya also presented an October 4, 2018, LandBank deposit slip worth P11.4 million sourced from his contractor friend that was allegedly deposited to Aremar Construction by another construction firm that he did not identify, after the DBM released the money.

Andaya, meanwhile, asked the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to provide his panel the complete bank transactions of CT Leoncio Construction and other construction firms with Aremar Construction.

Last year, Aremar Construction Corp. entered into a joint-venture agreement with CT Leoncio Construction and Trading in the implementation of at least four major infrastructure projects in Sorsogon.

“It is also clear that the Hamor couple are in-laws of Sec. Diokno. In Tagalog, balae or in-laws. Secretary Diokno may not wish to admit it, but his relations with the Hamors is clear. His son-in-law is Romeo  Sicat Jr., the son of Ester and Edwin Hamor,” said Andaya in a mix of English and Filipino.