House mulls over plunder raps in Bicol pork scam

The House of Representatives’ rules committee is eyeing plunder and tax evasion charges against the owners of a construction company owned by the in-laws of Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno.

House Majority Leader and Camarines Sur Rolando Andaya Jr., who heads the panel, said Friday the committee took custody of deposit slips amounting to more than P50-million representing payments made to Aremar Construction by two triple A construction companies that allegedly acted as “dummies” for the controversial company.

Andaya said the representatives of two more triple A construction companies that allegedly acted as dummies for Aremar Construction approached him to voluntary turn over more deposit slips after Thursday’s three-hour hearing on Diokno’s alleged practices in the national budget held at the Avenue Plaza Hotel in Magsaysay Avenue in Naga City.

“We are now in possession of bank transaction receipts showing that Aremar Construction received more than P50 million as share in the flood control scam. With this development, the evidence against Aremar has reached the plunder point,” said Andaya.

The biggest shareholder of Aremar is allegedly Mayor Edward Hamor of Casiguran, Sorsogon, the husband of Sorsogon Vice Governor Esther Hamor. The mayor has denied any wrongdoing.

In statement, Ryan Filgueras, the spokesman for the Hamor family, said Aremar Construction is not owned by Esther Hamor, the in-law of Diokno and that she does not own even a single share of stock of the corporation.

In addition, Filgueras, a lawyer, said, “the use of ‘dummies,’ assuming its true, is not a predicate crime of plunder. Because there is no malversation of funds, no acceptance of a bribe by a government official, no misappropriation of government assets, establishment of a monopoly or taking advantage of official position as spelled out by the law against plunder of Republic Act 7080 as amended by RA 7659.”

Filgueras added that the use of dummies in bidding for public works projects, if true, is not a crime because there is no law punishing it. “If at all, it will subject the contractor who allowed himself to be used as a supposed dummy to the administrative penalty of one year suspension of his license.”

Filgueras also questioned Andaya’s effort to protect the triple A contractors that allegedly acted as Aremar dummies adding that, “assuming for the sake of argument that what he [Andaya] is saying is true, then the triple A contractors should also be included in the charge of plunder as co-conspirators.”

“Why did he cover the name of the depositor in the deposit slip he showed yesterday? Who is that supposed triple A contractor that is also supposedly part of the convoluted scheme he is trying to paint and simply singled out my client who was not even involved in the preparation of that deposit slip?” the statement noted.

Filgueras also said Andaya “seems to have a penchant for making wild accusations based solely on his own assertions and innuendos—devoid of any basis in fact or in law for the sole purpose of besmirching the good reputation of my client.”

“It seems that the good congressman is trying to employ scare tactics on my client who has not committed anything wrong except that he has an accidental relation by affinity to his real target, Secretary Ben Diokno,” Filgueras said.

Hamor is the mother of Diokno’s son-in-law, Romeo Sicat Jr. who is married to the Budget secretary’s daughter, Charlotte Justine.

To validate the authenticity of the documents, Andaya ordered the issuance of a subpoena duces tecumfor the Anti Money Laundering Council to bring all the bank transactions of Aremar Construction.

“Speaker [Gloria Macapagal] Arroyo will sign the subpoena anytime,” said Andaya, adding that his panel will also ask the Bureau of Internal Revenue to check if proper taxes were paid for the transactions.

“If this income did not reflect in their tax payments, Aremar will have another problem. Not only the possibility of plunder but also tax evasion,” Andaya said.

READ: Budget chief set aside huge funds for in-laws’ areas, Andaya charges

After the hearing on Thursday, Andaya claimed that seven triple A companies, which had won all the government contracts of the Department of Public Works and Highways in Sorsogon totaling P10 billion in 2018, had allegedly entered into a partnership with Aremar similar to what it had with Bulacan-based C.T. Leoncio Construction and Trading.

Consolacion Leoncio, owner of C.T. Leoncio Construction and Trading, told the panel that she did not know the in-laws of Diokno and that only his liaison officer, Francis Clemente, who had been preparing all the documents for her business.

READ: Diokno escapes, Andaya furious

Topics: House of Representatives , plunder , tax evasion , Benjamin Diokno , Rolando Andaya Jr.
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