House invites Diokno, relatives to flood control 'scam' probe

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives is inviting Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, his daughter, and his in-laws behind the allegedly anomalous Aremar Construction, to its probe into the so-called flood control scam happening on Tuesday, January 15.

House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr said on Friday, January 11, that the committee on rules, expects "full cooperation and full disclosure" from Diokno, his daughter Charlotte Justine Diokno Sicat, Sicat's husband and Aremar Construction's incorporator Romeo Sicat Jr, and Casiguran, Sorsogon Mayor Edwin Hamor, the construction firm's biggest stockholder. 

Sicat is the son of Hamor's wife, Sorsogon Vice Governor Esther Hamor, from a previous marriage. (READ: Andaya seeks AMLC help in probe of firms linked to Diokno's in-laws)

"This is the proper forum for our senior government officials to air their side on the issues at hand. We will give them all the time needed to present their case. But we expect specific responses to specific issues. No general denials, and hiding behind technicalities," Andaya said.

The House panel also sent subpoenas to senior officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways, the Anti-Money Laundering Council, the Bureau of Immigration, and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), as well as the liaison officer of C.T. Leoncio Construction and Trading, another firm Andaya accused of bagging billions of government projects nationwide. 

Rappler already sought Diokno for comment if he and his relatives will be attending the hearing, but he has yet to reply as of posting time. 

President Rodrigo Duterte previously advised Diokno against attending the House hearing. The House passed a resolution urging the President to fire the DBM chief. 

The House panel is currently conducting an investigation into the alleged anomalies in the 2018 and the proposed 2019 budgets, both of which were prepared under Diokno.

The House Majority Leader, who was budget chief when Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was still president, had been accusing Diokno of using his Cabinet post to supposedly help bag big government projects in the province where his in-laws are elected officials. 

Andaya said that in 2018, Aremar Construction and C.T. Leoncio Construction entered into a joint venture agreement for 5 construction projects in the Bicol Region amounting to P550 million ($10.54 million)*.

The House panel is already exploring possible tax evasion and plunder charges against Diokno and his in-laws – Rappler.com

*$1 = P52.17

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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