Diokno in-laws' construction firm got P81M from dummies – Andaya

MANILA, Philippines – House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr on Tuesday, January 15, showed documents to supposedly prove that Aremar Construction, the firm allegedly tied to Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, received a total of P81,107,036 from its alleged dummy contractors in 2018. 

Andaya presented 5 Landbank deposit slips from various unnamed contractors during the resumption of the House committee on rules’ probe into the so-called flood control projects scam on Tuesday.

He said this alleged dummy scheme in Sorsogon has led to supposed faulty construction projects in the province. 

The biggest stockholder of Aremar Construction is Casiguran Mayor Edwin Hamor, married to Sorsogon Vice Governor Esther Hamor whose son from a previous marriage, Romeo Sicat Jr, is an incorporator of Aremar Construction. Sicat is the husband of Diokno’s daughter, Charlotte Justine Diokno Sicat.

The deposit slips that Andaya presented included one for P11.416 million that an unidentified construction firm deposited to Aremar Construction on October 4, 2018. Andaya had publicized this transaction at the first hearing on January 3. 

Andaya said representatives of these alleged dummy firms told him they only got about 3% to 5% of the total project cost, while the rest went to Aremar Construction. 

“Royalty fee lang ang napupunta sa Triple A contractors na nanalo ng bidding. Usually 3% to 5% lang ito ng total project cost. Karamihan [ng] contractors ay dummy at namomorsiyento lang sa mga lugar nila. Ang bulto talaga ng mga proyekto napupunta sa mga kumpanya sa baba na may kapit sa taas,” said the Majority Leader. 

(Only royalty fees end up going to the Triple A contractors that won the bidding. This is usually 3% to 5% of the total project cost. Most of the contractors are just dummies and only get a percentage from the projects in their areas. The bulk of the project costs really go to the companies on the ground that have ties with people of authority.)

The House panel is already looking into possible tax evasion and plunder charges against Diokno’s in-laws. Diokno, however, has repeatedly denied all allegations against him, including Andaya's belief that Diokno used his position as Cabinet official to help bag projects for his in-laws.

During the hearing, Edwin Hamor distanced himself from Diokno, whom he said he only met at a wedding. Hamor also said he was not close to any of the children of his wife from her previous marriage.  

Incomplete, easily damaged projects in Sorsogon

During the hearing, Andaya showed pictures of several construction projects in Sorsogon that were either incomplete or damaged after heavy rain, among them the the damaged road along Barangay Pawik in Magallanes and Maharlika Highway in Cabid-an.

The others include the incomplete Casiguran Coastal Road; the damaged flood control projects in Inararan in Bulan town and Milagrosa in Castilla, the incomplete river control project in Gabao, and a flood control project “waiting for the river to come” at Prieto Diaz, said Andaya.

“Ang resulta, hindi natatapos sa oras ang mga proyekto. Kung matapos man, minadali at sira agad (The result is that the projects are not completed on time. If they are finished, they were rushed and easily damaged),said Andaya.

He also questioned why the construction firm supposedly paid only P15,000 in taxes in 2017 despite bagging big government projects since Aremar  Construction began operations years before that.

Andaya showed a document from the Securities and Exchange Commission showing that in 2017, Aremar Construction paid only P15,685 for taxes, licenses, and permits. The figure was at P3,040 in 2016. 

“Sa laki ng kita ng Aremar mula sa pondo galing sa DBM (With the huge profits Aremar earns from getting huge funds from DBM), we expect them to pay a sizeable amount of taxes. But in their financial statement submitted to the SEC, we noticed payment of taxes for only P15,000,” said Andaya. 

The House committee, however, has yet to present official documents related to Aremar Construction’s tax payments in 2018. Andaya said he was requesting access to these documents from the Bureau of Internal Revenue. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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