By Ben Rosario
The House of Representatives accusations of Secretary Benjamin Diokno’s involvement in budget irregularities was further firmed up as lawmakers discovered that his department has actually conducted the bidding and procurement of over P198 billion in service and supply contracts for the government.
Claiming that Diokno may have gotten involved in anomalies of “that smells Dengvaxia”, Majority Leader and Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. disclosed that the Procurement Service-DBM was involved in the procurement of over P198 billion in goods and services of various agencies of the government in 2018.
Of the amount, P168,275,312,177.47 was traced as procurement of the Department of Transportation for various foreign-funded contracts, mostly China-financed projects such as the Southrail and other infrastructure projects under the Duterte government’s ‘build, build, build” policy.
“These projects and contracts include the building of airports, railways and mass transport systems as well as the purchase of military hardware including helicopters,” said Andaya.
Andaya, who also served as budget secretary but under the Arroyo administration, noted that in 2018, the DOTr received an allocation of only P38.51 billion, at least P130 billion lower than what the DBM has procured for the department.
These pieces of information belied claims by Diokno that his agency was never involved in the procurement or bidding of government infrastructure projects, said Andaya.
“We have unknowingly opened a can of worms at the DBM. First, the P75-billion insertion unknown to the DPWH Secretary. Then, the DBM funds finding their way to the firm of Sec. Diokno’s in-law. Now, the DBM turning into a super-bidding body for more than P179 billion worth of government projects,” said Andaya in a statement.
During Tuesday’s Committee on Rules hearing on the budget irregularities, DBM-PS Bingie Gutierrez admitted that the agency has led the procurement of P198 billion in goods and services.
Gutierrez also explained to the rules panel members that the DBM-PS’ duty is to help government agencies procure commonly-used supplies.
“Would not the DOTr have the expertise to have these projects procured? They would have the engineers, why put it in an office which has no mandate to this, their mandate is only for the procurement of papers and ballpens,” noted Andaya.
Diokno’s department has been under legislative scrutiny after congressmen discovered P51 billion in so-called “parked pork barrel funds” or allocations inserted in the proposed 2019 national budget.
The Cabinet secretary later admitted that the amount of allocation that was not in the original national expenditure program was P75 billion but insisted that President Duterte and the entire Cabinet were aware of this.
Andaya later accused the DBM of favoritism in the allocation of flood control funds as it discovered that Casiguran town in Sorsogon received over P550 million for flood management program projects notwithstanding the fact that the municipality is not considered as a threatened locality.
Casiguran is headed by Mayor Edwin Hamor, founder of Aremar Construction and in-law of Diokno’s daughter, Charlotte.
During two recent public hearings, Andaya presented bank deposit slips indicating that P81 million has been placed by contractors in the Land Bank account of Aremar Construction.
Said contractors were among those who cornered big-ticket infrastructure contracts in Sorsogon and Catanduanes. (Ben R. Rosario)