Solon alleges at least ₱550-M infra projects linked to budget chief's in-laws

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House Majority Floor Leader Rolando Andaya says Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno must not involve the President in the issue surrounding the ₱550 million worth of infrastructure projects.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 14) — The solon who questioned Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno for insertions in the 2019 budget said at least ₱550 million worth of infrastructure projects were found to have links to the Cabinet official's in-laws.

House Majority Floor Leader Rolando Andaya, in a statement sent to reporters Saturday, said four projects were found linked to Mayor Edwin Hamor of Casiguran, Sorsogon and his wife Sorsogon Vice Mayor Ester Hamor. The mayor is the father of Jojo Sicat, the husband of Diokno's daughter.

"These projects include the P49-million highway improvement for Aruman-Casiguran Road; ₱96-million construction of Barcelona-Casiguran diversion road; ₱115-million tourism road leading to Bulusan National Park; and the ₱289-million Daang Maharlika Section in the 1st District of Sorsogon," Andaya said.

Andaya said documents obtained by the House panel showed that Mayor Hamor's daughter, Maria Minez Hamor, owns Aremar Construction Corp. -- a firm which entered into partnership with CT Leoncio Construction and Trading for the four projects.

Lawmakers earlier questioned CT Leoncio, for bagging 30 government projects in 2018 ahead of the budget approval.

"The House rules committee has yet to commence its formal investigation on the questionable multi-billion allocation by DBM (Department of Budget and Management) for Sorsogon. But this early, pieces of evidence being uncovered point to the in-laws of a Cabinet official as end beneficiaries of the infrastructure projects," Andaya said.

The House leader said that Congress' approval of the budget does not dismiss the fact that Diokno approved the allocations for Sorsogon and included them in the National Expenditure Program before it was submitted to Congress.

"After trying to hide his scheme with congressional imprimatur, he now goes against the very people he has duped all along," Andaya said.

He added the budget chief must not involve the President in the budget issue.

"The President has already spoken. He has no hand in the identification of infrastructure projects inserted by the DBM in the national budget. The identification of projects and disbursement of budget allocations is the work of his Cabinet. We, in Congress, believe that the President is not, in any way, involved in this process," Andaya said.

The House lawmakers have filed a resolution seeking President Rodrigo Duterte's reconsideration of Diokno's appointment as Budget chief. The Palace, however, scolded Congress for supposedly "disrespecting" Diokno, and threatened to avoid questioning from the lower House should they continue with the allegations.

Diokno, meanwhile, has repeatedly denied conflict of interest in the budget allocations.