By Ben Rosario
NAGA CITY, Camarines Sur – A Bulacan-based contractor is in hot water after admitting in a congressional hearing yesterday that her firm tapped the construction firm of an in-law of Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno in getting some P550-million contracts for flood mitigating projects in flood-safe areas in Sorsogon and Catanduanes.
This developed as House Majority Leader and Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya revealed during the hearing that he will ask the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to help the House Committee on Rules investigate dirty money transactions of contractors and government officials involved in anomalous transactions involving rich government flood infrastructure contracts.
“I will request for all transactions of CT Leoncio Construction and Aremar Construction,” Andaya said as he showed a Land Bank deposit slip transferring P11,416,374 to Aremar, a company owned by Mayor Dennis Hamor of Casiguran, Sorsogon.
In a statement, Aremar said the firm was established by Mayor Hamor in 2014 when he was still in the private sector. It stressed that he divested from the firm after he won the Casiguran mayorship in 2016.
Hamor’s sister, Grace Hamor –Yu, and daughter Maria Minez-Hamor, took over the firm before marrying incumbent Sorsogon Vice Governor Esther Hamor, Diokno’s “actual in-laws.”
The vice governor’s son is married to Diokno’s daughter, Charlotte Dustin Diokno-Sicat.
The firm also stressed that it is not in partnership with CT Leoncio but are involved in joint venture agreement for the implementation of four projects in Sorsogon.
“AREMAR also has a joint venture with LPDC Construction in 2 projects,” the firm added.
Mayor Hamor denied allegations that the construction firm owned by his daughter has cornered at least P551 million in government contracts bid out in 2018 by the Department of Public Works and Highways.
“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 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.
‘Immoral’ not illegal
Andaya aired suspicions that Aremar was the actual construction firm behind some P10 billion worth of flood mitigation contracts in Sorsogon.
Consolacion Leoncio, owner of CT Leoncio, appeared before the House rules panel investigation to admit having agreed to a joint venture with Aremar. She denied having personally attended to public biddings for the multi-million peso flood mitigation projects, saying it was her liaison, Francisco Clemente, who actively participated.
Lawyer Rafael Madrid, Leoncio’s counsel, insisted there was nothing illegal in the joint venture transactions that won over P550 million worth of contracts but admitted that what his client may have committed was something “immoral.”
Leoncio admitted there were occasions when several infrastructure projects were implemented simultaneously, and she resorted to renting heavy equipment to do this.
However, Andaya said Leoncio may be held liable for falsifying her public bidding tender documents by claiming that she possesses enough heavy equipment for each of the projects she had won.
He cited five sample CT Leoncio projects in Sorsogon that used only one backhoe for all of the flood control jobs.
During the hearing, Andaya pursued Diokno’s alleged involvement in the irregularities even as he chided the Cabinet official for having allocated “an unusual huge amount of public money, running to hundreds of billions of pesos” for flood control projects since he assumed office.
“Sec Diokno has full control over the allocation of these funds, with or without consultation with the DPWH Secretary,” said the House official.
According to Andaya, a number of contractors have started to come out in the open to help the Lower House determine the truth about the budget and flood control project irregularities.