House to summon DPWH officials to clear air in flood control ‘scam’

THE House Committee on Rules will subpoena top officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) as it eyes conspiracy in the multibillion-peso flood control scam, its chairman said on Sunday.

In a statement, Majority Leader Rolando G. Andaya Jr., however, immediately cleared Public Works Secretary Mark A. Villar.

“The public hearing in Naga has raised more questions than answers. The testimonies given under oath by those subpoenaed indicate a top-level conspiracy in the multibillion-peso flood control scam that may involve ranking officials of government. At the very least, the testimonies and evidence point to DBM [Department of Budget and Management] Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno in conspiracy with a senior DPWH official,” Andaya said.

“I doubt if Villar is in the loop with this modus operandi. We hope he can help us get to the bottom of this,” he said, adding he believes Villar may have been blindsided by DPWH officials involved in the flood control scam.

In view of this development, Andaya said the House rules committee will issue subpoena to senior officials. Those to be summoned are DPWH Undersecretary for Planning and PPP Maria Catalina E. Cabral, Senior Undersecretary for Regional Operations in Luzon Rafael C. Yabut and Project Director of Flood Control Management Cluster Patrick B. Gatan.

The House committee will also issue subpoena duces tecum for official DPWH documents and transaction records related to flood- control projects implemented from 2017 to 2018.

“The testimonies from the DPWH regional office and district offices in Bicol were very clear. Top DPWH officials are ignoring Department Order 23 to bypass strict requirements for flood control projects,” Andaya said.

“Whoever is downloading these instructions to the DPWH district engineers is possibly the one in cahoots with Diokno,” he added. “These flood-control projects submitted by the district engineers are then used to come up with a list of projects for approval by Diokno.”

According to Andaya, the “connivance” between Diokno and senior DPWH officials “is possibly the reason why billions of pesos in flood-control projects are allocated by the DBM to Casiguran and other parts of Sorsogon province.”

Whistle-blowers

Andaya said the public hearing conducted by the House Rules Committee in Naga City has attracted more whistle-blowers “willing to spill the beans on anomalous budget practices and allocations by the DBM.”

“Immediately after the hearing, several contractors in [the] Bicol region approached me and expressed their willingness to cooperate with the House investigation. They voluntarily offered to provide solid evidence confirming our initial findings that contractors related to Secretary Diokno are using dummies to get multimillion government contracts,” he said.

“We are now in possession of bank transaction receipts showing that Aremar Construction [Co.] received more than P50 million as share in the flood control scam. With this development, the evidence against Aremar has reached the plunder point,” he added.

Andaya said these transaction receipts include the deposit slip for P11 million that found its way to the LandBank account of Aremar last October.

“With these pieces of evidence, we will ask the Bureau of Internal Revenue for official documents related to tax payments made by Aremar and its incorporators,” he added.

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

According to Andaya’s statement, Casiguran Mayor Edward Hamor, Aremar’s biggest shareholder, is the husband of Sorsogon Vice Gov. Ester Hamor, the mother of Diokno’s son-in-law, Romeo Sicat Jr. who is married to the budget secretary’s daughter, Charlotte Justine.

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Jovee Marie de la Cruz

Jovee Marie Dela Cruz is working as a reporter in the country's leading business newspaper the BusinessMirror since 2013.
Ms. Dela Cruz, who is in the media industry for 8 years, is currently covering the House of Representatives.
She graduated from Universidad De Manila with a degree of Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 2008.
At present, Ms. Dela Cruz is finishing up her master's degree in communication at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP).
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