House finalizing plunder raps vs Benjamin Diokno
MANILA, Philippines — Two committees of the House of Representatives are drafting plunder charges against Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno for his repeated refusal to heed six summonses.
Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., chairman of the House appropriations committee, said the public accounts committee of House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez is preparing all the necessary documents for the pressing of charges.
“They are all complete and ready to go. We will file the case and Diokno will have the time explaining before the Office of the Ombudsman,” Andaya said in an interview with dzBB yesterday.
The case stemmed from the P75 billion that Diokno admitted having inserted in the 2019 national budget where his in-laws in Sorsogon – Vice Gov. Esther Hamor and Casiguran Mayor Edwin Hamor – bagged more than P500 million in infrastructure projects.
The Andaya-Suarez joint panel have also uncovered the Aremar Construction firm of the Hamors – parents-in-law of Diokno’s daughter Charlotte Justine – was beneficiary of P81 million in proceeds deposited by dummy firm CT Leoncio Corp. which won the award.
“First of all, there was conflict of interest there. That is really the case,” said Andaya, a lawyer by profession and former budget official.
Charlotte is married to Esther’s son Romeo Sicat Jr. by her first marriage, which makes Edwin Hamor (Esther’s second husband who repeatedly insisted he has no relation to the embattled Cabinet secretary) her stepfather, or simply put – Diokno’s balae (parent of offspring’s spouse).
Andaya, who will be running for governor in his home province Camarines Sur, said Suarez’s committee will be spearheading the filing of cases before Ombudsman Samuel Martires anytime soon.
Putting back pork
In a related development, Andaya also warned Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles – who was House appropriations panel chairman before joining the executive department – against returning the P75 billion pork the senators and congressmen removed from the outlay.
“My unsolicited advice to Nograles, the new spokesperson of Diokno: be careful with the crafting of the veto message for it will just lead back to where it all started,” he said.
Andaya noted that it was under Nograles’ chairmanship that the funds were inserted.
Nograles was appropriations chairman when Pantaleon Alvarez was still speaker.
“It is Congress’ job to scrutinize the national expenditure plan as part of its budget authorization function,” Andaya reiterated.
“Now that Congress has fulfilled its job in correcting the P75-billion gaffe, Diokno and Nograles are back in the drawing board to restore it in the 2019 GAA via a veto message. This is clear mockery of the power of Congress to scrutinize the budget,” he warned.
“In case the two Cabinet members succeed in this evil scheme of vetoing the 2019 GAB to restore the P75-billion insertion, I will join Senators Lacson and Drilon in questioning the veto message before the Supreme Court,” the House official declared.
“The President is not part of the conspiracy between the DBM and the previous House leadership. It will be a great disservice and disloyalty for few Cabinet members to drag the President into this mess,” Andaya said.