THE chairman of the House Committee on Rules yesterday accused Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno and an unnamed senior official of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) of being behind a top level conspiracy in the alleged multibillion-peso flood control scam in Bicol region.
House Majority Leader and Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando “Nonoy” Andaya Jr., the panel chairman, said legal and proper procedures for flood control projects are allegedly bypassed by conspirators and requests are made through viber messages to avoid a paper trail.
Andaya said the testimonies of district and regional officials of DPWH Bicol region during last Thursday’s hearing of his committee in Naga City on the supposed shortcut process for flood control projects’ requests indicated the alleged connivance of high-ranking government officials.
“The public hearing in Naga has raised more questions than answers. The testimonies given under oath by those subpoenaed indicated a top-level conspiracy in the multibillion-peso flood control scam that may involve ranking officials of government. At the very least, the testimonies and evidence point to DBM Sec. Benjamin Diokno in conspiracy with a senior DPWH official,” said Andaya.
Diokno vehemently denied any irregularity or wrongdoing in the budget process and other allegations being hurled against him by Andaya.
Despite his suspicion of high-ranking DPWH officials’ involvement in the alleged top level conspiracy with Diokno, Andaya cleared anew Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, explaining the secretary is possibly being blindsided by his people.
“I doubt if Sec. Villar is in the loop with this modus operandi. Posibleng blindsided siya ng mga DPWH officials na involved sa flood control scam. We hope he can help us get to the bottom of this,” said Diokno.
Andaya said the House Committee on Rules will issue subpoenas to senior DPWH officials including Ma. Catalina Cabral, Undersecretary for Planning and Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Service; Rafael “Pye” Yabut, Senior Undersecretary for Regional Operations in Luzon; and Patrick Gatan, Project Director of Flood Control Management Cluster.
He said the committee will also subpoena DPWH official documents and transaction records related to flood control projects implemented from 2017 to 2018.
“The testimonies from the DPWH regional office and district offices in Bicol were very clear. Top DPWH officials are ignoring Department Order No. 23 to bypass strict requirements for flood control projects. May nag-uutos galing sa taas na i-short cut ang proseso sa flood control projects. Hindi dumadaan ang request ng district offices sa regional offices as required by DO 23. Deretso ang utos sa district engineers. Para maiwasan ang paper trail, no written orders or instructions. Viber messages lang,” said Andaya.
“Whoever is downloading these instructions to the DPWH district engineers is possibly the one in cahoots with Sec. Diokno. These flood control projects submitted by the district engineers are then used to come up with a list of projects for approval by Sec. Diokno. Kaya pala ang depensa ni Sec. Diokno, dumadaan sa DPWH ang request. May kasabwat pala sa loob. We will identify them in the next hearing,” Andaya said.