House to probe alleged anomalies under Diokno in January 2019

Mara Cepeda
House to probe alleged anomalies under Diokno in January 2019
House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr says he's 'particularly interested' in the P100 million worth of debts that the Department of Budget and Management owes suppliers and contractors this year

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives will launch in January its probe into the alleged anomalies in the current 2018 budget and the proposed P3.757-trillion budget for 2019, both prepared under Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno.

On Thursday, December 13, House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr said the rules committee will look into the “questionable allocations” of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on January 3, 2019, at 3 pm in Naga City.

Andaya said he is “particularly interested” in the P100 billion worth of unpaid payments that the DBM owes various contractors and suppliers this year. He quoted Budget Undersecretary Catalina Cabral as saying that for the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) alone, the amount of pending payables is at P44 billion.

Andaya said this is worrisome, as Diokno admitted to lawmakers that the DBM had added P75 billion to the DPWH budget for 2019, an amount that Andaya said neither DPWH chief Mark Villar nor President Rodrigo Duterte know about.

“The billion-dollar question: Why then did Secretary Diokno insist on inserting an additional P75 billion in the DPWH infrastructure projects for 2019 when the DBM has no money to pay for [its] P100-billion debt to contractors and suppliers? Mag-iinsert ka ng P75 billion, ‘di naman pala mababayaran mga utang (You will insert P75 billion, but you can’t even pay off your debts)?” said Andaya. 

“Hindi lang mukhang balasubas dito ang gobyerno. This will definitely cause an economic slowdown kung hindi mababayaran ng DBM ang P100 bilyon na utang nila. This is mismanagement. Malinaw na may kapabayaan dito si Secretary Diokno,” he added.

(The government does not only appear to be uncouth. This will definitely cause an economic slowdown if the DBM would not be able to pay its P100-billion debt. This is mismanagement. It’s clear that there was negligence on the part of Secretary Diokno.)

Opposition congressman and Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman, however, believes Diokno did not insert the P75 billion without Duterte’s consent

The House will be issuing a subpoena against Consolacion Leoncio – owner of CT Leoncio Construction and Trading which is accused of bagging billions of pesos worth of government contracts starting 2017 – to attend the probe in January.

Also to be summoned are the Bicol regional director of the DPWH, two district engineers of Sorsogon City, the district engineer of Catanduanes, and members of the DPWH bids and awards committee that handled CT Leoncio Construction’s projects.

Andaya said Diokno, who has denied all accusations against him, will be asked to appear during the investigation “on a later date.”

Andaya believes Diokno and other Cabinet officials are tied to CT Leoncio Construction. In Sorsogon alone – the province whose vice governor is the mother-in-law of Diokno’s daughter – the company cornered a total of 30 projects in 2018. 

While the House already adopted a resolution urging Duterte to fire Diokno, Malacañang still stands by the budget chief, saying that he remains a “man of integrity.” – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.