NAGA CITY -- The chairman of the House Committee on Rules yesterday said his panel is now eyeing possible plunder and tax evasion complaints against the family of Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno’s in-laws who own Aremar Construction.
However, the construction firm’s alleged irregularities were strongly denied by the father of the company’s owner.
The Andaya panel had taken custody of more than P50 million worth of an alleged deposit slip made out to Aremar Construction by two big-time or triple A construction companies that allegedly stood as “dummies” of the controversial firm, said House Majority Leader and Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando “Nonoy” Andaya Jr., the committee chairman.
Andaya said two more triple A construction corporations which allegedly served as dummies of Aremar Construction approached him to voluntarily turn over more deposit slips after last Thursday’s three-hour hearing on corruption allegations against Diokno’s questioned practices in the national budget held at the Avenue Plaza Hotel in Magsaysay Avenue here.
“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 on one of the possible recommendations of his panel.
Casiguran Mayor Edward Hamor, allegedly the biggest shareholder of Aremar Construction which he denied, is the husband of Sorsogon Vice Gov. Ester Hamor.
Vice Gov. 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 for the Anti Money Laundering Council (AMLC) 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 (BIR) to check if proper taxes were paid in the transactions.
“If this income will not reflect in their tax payments, Aremar will have another problem. Not only the possibility of plunder but also tax evasion,” said Andaya.
Andaya said he expects other possible bank transactions of Aremar Corporation with other dummy corporations to come out.
After the hearing, Andaya claimed that seven “triple A” companies, which had won all the government contracts of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) 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.
Valid and legal — Hamor
In a related development, Mayor Hamor has refuted allegations that a construction firm owned by his daughter cornered at least P551 million in government contracts in 2018 from the Department of Public Works and Highways.
Hamor squarely rejected the claim of Andaya that Aremar Construction Corp. was favored owing to his ties to Diokno.
“Aremar was established in 2014 when I was out of government and I was in the private sector. I divested before I assumed as mayor in 2016 in favor of my sister, Grace Hamor-Yu, and my daughter, Maria Minez Hamor,” the mayor said.
“Maria is my daughter outside of wedlock before I married Esther Hamor, who is the actual in-law of Diokno. Maria Hamor now owns majority of Aremar,” he added.
Hamor explained that Aremar and CT Leoncio Construction and Trading, a Triple A company, are not partners but are only involved in a joint venture for four infrastructure projects in Sorsogon.
“Joint ventures are legal and allowed by the DPWH if it has a Philippine Contractors Accreditation Board approval and special license for joint venture purposes. All these joint ventures have PCAB approval and a numbered special license. Joint ventures are valid and legal,” he said.
The joint venture projects being questioned by Andaya cover the off-carriageway improvement of the Ariman-Casiguran Road (P47 million), Barcelona-Casiguran Diversion Road (P96 million), a tourism road in Bulusan National Park (P115 million) and the section of Daang Maharlika Road in Sorsogon (P289 million).
“The procurement law requires that all projects be open to all contractors. And it’s not the Department of Budget and Management that bids out and releases – it is the DPWH,” Hamor added.
During the hearing, Andaya, questioned the bidding documents of C.T. Leoncio, tagged as favored contractor of Diokno, which has been allegedly using a single backhoe since May 2018 in the implementation of five sample projects in Sorsogon and only has three engineers for 40 projects.