House resumes flood control fund probe
The joint committee of rules and public accounts of the House of Representatives will resume today its investigation into the alleged multibillionpeso flood control fund scam.
House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr., rules committee chairman, will reopen the probe with the public accounts committee of House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez to look into the reported insertions of Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno in the 2019 national budget.
“We expect full cooperation and full disclosure from those invited to the hearing as they will be testifying under oath,” Andaya, who represents Camarines Sur, said as he sent invitations to Diokno, his daughter Charlotte Justine and their in-laws, the Hamors of Sorsogon.
Charlotte is married to Romeo Sicat Jr., son of Vice Gov. Esther Hamor and stepson of her mayor-husband Edwin of Casiguran town in Sorsogon, the 15-municipality province that became recipient of P10.5 billion in infrastructure projects from the national government.
Diokno confirmed the allocation for Sorsogon, including the P395 million in floodcontrol funds for Casiguran, which Andaya said is “under no threat of flooding for the next 25 years,” but clarified that other Bicol provinces have also been allocated significant funding.
According to the Cabinet official, Albay had the highest allocation of P11.2 billion in 2018, followed by Sorsogon’s P10.5 billion, closely followed by Camarines Sur at P10.2 billion, Masbate at P4.5 billion, Camarines Norte at P3.3 billion and Catanduanes at P2.5 billion.
The joint committee also sent subpoenas to other DBM officials as well as those of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Anti-Money Laundering Council.
“We expect to be provided with documentary evidence that could shed light on the anomalous budget practices of the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) and questionable allocations for DPWH, which we uncovered during the previous hearing. 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.
He added that they want answers on why billions of pesos in flood control projects were inserted in the DPWH budget “without the knowledge of Secretary Mark Villar.”
“A huge chunk of the floodcontrol projects was allocated not to flood-prone areas and danger zones, but to favored areas such as Casiguran, Sorsogon which has no threat of flooding,” Andaya claimed.