Ombudsman: No probe yet on 'flood control scam'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 11) — The Office of the Ombudsman denied it has started its investigation into the allegedly anomalous flood-control projects linked to the in-laws of Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno.

Ombudsman Samuel Martires, however, confirmed on Thursday that his office has started gathering documents regarding the supposed scam.

"We have not yet conducted any investigation with respect to the subject matter of the privilege speeches of Senator Panfilo Lacson and Rep. Andaya. As of the moment, we are only in the process of gathering documents," he said in a statement.

He said he asked for copies of Lacson and Rep. Rolando Andaya's privilege speeches on the allegedly misplaced budget allocations to be better informed on the issue.

Martires slams Andaya

Martires also refuted Andaya's "inaccurate" statement that his office has seen "red flags" during the House panel hearing into the flood-control projects in Sorsogon — the bailiwick of Diokno's in laws.

"Truth of the matter is, we have not seen any red flag even from the horizon because we have not been sufficiently educated as to the subject matter of the privilege speeches of Sen. Lacson and Rep. Andaya, and as we have yet to fully investigate the matter," he said.

Andaya earlier said the Office of the Ombudsman "noticed red flags of corruption on the evidence presented and on the testimonies."

The Ombudsman urged the House Committee on Rules to continue its investigation and file complaints before his office if it finds sufficient evidence to prove its allegation against Diokno.

"It is not good to drag the Office of the Ombudsman into this feud between the Office of the Secretary of Budget and Management and the House of Representatives," Martires said.

During the House panel probe on January 3, Andaya said Diokno allocated P385 million for the flood-control projects of Casiguran, Sorsogon — an area which is not threatened by floods. He also said contractors are being used as fronts by Aremar Construction Corporation, a firm owned by Diokno's in-laws.

"At least P70-million worth of kickbacks were deposited to the bank account of Aremar by their dummy contractors," Andaya said on Friday.

Aremar's biggest shareholder is Casiguran Mayor Edward Hamor. He is married to Sorsogon Vice Governor Ester Hamor, the mother of Diokno's son-in-law Romeo "Jojo" Sicat Jr.

The House panel has formally invited Diokno, his daughter Charlotte Justine, and his in-laws to attend the next hearing on January 15.