Amid flood control controversy, Casiguran mayor distances self from Diokno

MANILA, Philippines – Mayor Edwin Hamor of Casiguran, Sorsogon – the biggest stockholder of the construction firm that bagged millions of government projects in his province – denied he is close to Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Benjamin Diokno. 

Hamor, whose stepson Romeo “Jojo” Sicat Jr is the husband of Diokno’s daughter Charlotte Justin Diokno Sicat, attended the House hearing on the so-called flood control projects scam on Tuesday, January 15. 

House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr asked Hamor if he had met Diokno, but the mayor said he only sees the DBM chief “sometimes" and that Diokno addresses him as "mayor."

Hamor added he met Diokno at a wedding, but refused to reply yes when asked by Andaya if he is the DBM chief’s in-law.  

“‘Di po ako balae (I’m not his in-law),” said Hamor, explaining his ties to Diokno. Hamor is married to Vice Governor Esther Hamor, whose son from a previous marriage, Sicat Jr, is an incorporator of Aremar Construction that the Casiguran mayor founded. 

Hamor clarified, however, that Jojo Sicat was not even supposed to be an incorporator of his construction firm. Hamor said Jojo Sicat was added only because he (Hamor) had a fight with his wife, Sicat's mother. To appease Esther Hamor, the mayor made her son an incorporator. 

“Kaya nasama si Jojo Sicat para walang gulo. Pero kinausap ko si Jojo, pati mga kapatid niya, na parang di ka talaga dito kasali,” said Hamor. 

(Jojo Sicat was included so there would be no conflict anymore. But I talked to Jojo, and even his siblings, that he is really not part of it.)

According to the mayor, he created Aremar Construction in 2014 to ensure a good life for his biological daughter Maria Minez Hamor. Because Minez Hamor was still a minor at the time, the mayor said he took her place in the company management temporarily, then divested his shares when he won the mayoral race in 2016.

Hamor said he also wanted to provide financial stability to two of his stepchildren who grew up under his care, so he made Martin Aber Sicat and Maria Charisma Sicat as incorporators. Martin and Charisma are children of Esther Hamor. Edmon Bautista, another incorporator, is Hamor’s friend.

This seems to be Hamor’s response to Andaya’s previous accusations that Diokno is using his influence as DBM secretary to help corner big ticket projects for his in-laws’ construction company, a charge that Diokno already denied

Hamor told Andaya, however, that the controversy had been affecting his family. He said that one of Esther Hamor's daughters already suffered from a miscarriage.

"'Di po ako humihingi ng simpatiya, pero 'yan po ang nangyayari (I'm not asking for your sympathy, but this is what really happened)," he said.

On Tuesday, the Majority Leader produced documents showing that Aremar Construction allegedly received P81 million from its dummy contractors for various projects in Sorsogon in 2018. 

Andaya did not ask Hamor about these alleged earnings from dummy companies and instead focused his queries on Hamor’s ties with Diokno and the various business of the Hamor and Diokno family members. 

Sought by Rappler for comment on the sidelines of the hearing, Hamor refused to respond, saying "Ayoko, 'wag na muna (I don't want to answer for now)." – Rappler.com 

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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