By Charissa Luci-Atienza
For House Minority Leader and Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno should be subpoenaed by the House Committee on Rules if the latter snubs the Lower Chamber’s hearing on Tuesday on the supposed budget insertions in the 2019 proposed General Appropriations Act (GAA).
The opposition House leader said to compel Diokno’s attendance and shed light on the alleged P75-billion insertions under the proposed 2019 P3.757-trillion national budget, the House panel, chaired by House Majority Leader and Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando “Nonoy” Andaya should issue a subpoena against Diokno.
“We must [compel Sec. Diokno to attend the hearing]. Definitely ‘pag hindi siya mag-attend, isu-subpoena namin siya,” Suarez said.
“The Minority remains firm in its call for a clean and honest governance, free from personal bias and conflicts of interest,” he stressed.
He had noted that the supposed P10-billion pork barrel scam of businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles was just a small amount or a “petty cash” transaction compared to the purported anomalous P332-billion flood control projects.
“We reiterate our call to government agencies to be transparent in the budget utilization and follow protocol on the procurement, bidding and project implementation,” Suarez said.
The House Committee on Rules has formally invited Diokno, his daughter Charlotte Justine, and his in-laws who are incorporators of Aremar Construction to appear as resource persons in the panel’s Jan. 15 hearing
The panel also sent subpoenas to senior officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and DBM and Francis Clemente who acted as the liaison officer of C.T. Leoncio Construction in dealing with government contracts.
Andaya alleged that a huge chunk of the flood-control projects was allocated not to flood-prone areas and danger zones, but to favored areas such as Casiguran, which has no threat of flooding.
“Aremar Construction, which is owned by the in-laws of Sec. Diokno, cornerned billions of pesos worth of projects in Sorsogon using dummy corporations,” he said, citing the C.T. Leoncio Construction and Trading as the DBM’s alleged favored contractor.
He claimed that at least P70-million worth of kickbacks were deposited to the bank account of Aremar by their dummy contractors.
“We expect full cooperation and full disclosure from those invited to the hearing as they will be testifying under oath,” he said.
“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,” Andaya said.
Aremar Construction is allegedly owned by Casiguran Mayor Edwin Hamor whose stepson, Romeo “Jojo” Sicat, Jr. is married to Charlotte Justin.
Hamor is the husband of Sorsogon Vice Gov. Hamor. Romeo Sicat Jr., Diokno’s son-in-law, is the son of Vice Gov. Hamor with previous partner Gerardo Sicat.
“We hope the officials of AMLC can help the House committee identify who really benefitted from the public funds that found their way to Aremar Construction and its dummy corporations,” Andaya said.