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Martires denies Ombudsman probe into multi-million-peso
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Martires denies Ombudsman probe into multi-million-peso ‘flood control scam’

January 11 ------ The Office of the Ombudsman is conducting no investigation into the alleged insertion of funds for flood control projects in the P3.757-trillion proposed 2019 national budget, Ombudsman Samuel Martires said on Thursday. Contrary to the claim of House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya, Martires said the Ombudsman was only in the process of gathering documents related to his privilege speech and that of Senator Panfilo Lacson regarding the alleged allocations.

"We have not conducted any investigation with respect to the subject matter of the privilege speeches of Senator Panfilo Lacon and Representative Andaya. As of the moment, we are only in the process of gathering documents," Martires said in a statement. Martires earlier declined to say whether the agency was investigating the so-called flood control scam, invoking the confidential nature of his Field Investigation Office's operations. Andaya earlier said the Ombudsman had "noticed red flags of corruption on the evidence presented and on the testimonies made during the hearing" related to the projects in Casiguran, a town he said was not vulnerable to flooding.

Martires said there is no such red flag because he and his investigators had "not been sufficiently educated" on the multi-million-peso insertion into the 2019 budget. He only confirmed that he ordered one of his investigators to request for copies of Andaya's speech and the materials he used through the Secretariat of the Committee on Rules.

A certain Mr. Baquiran volunteered to give Ombudsman investigators copies, according to Martires, because approval of the House plenary was needed before the materials could be released. "Our investigator was further asked if our office also needed documents generated during the public hearing presided over by Representative Andaya in Naga City. Naturally, any well-meaning investigator will not refuse any information that may enlighten him," Martires said.

Martires said it would be "imprecise" for Andaya to say the Ombudsman requested copies since it was Baquiran who made the effort to supply the documents. He also urged the House to finish its investigation first and file the appropriate charges at the Ombudsman if its finds sufficient evidence. "It is not good to drag the Office of the Ombudsman into this feud between the Office of the Secretary of the Budget and Management and the House of Representatives," Martires said.

Andaya has alleged that Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno had a hand in transactions involving supposedly favored contractor CT Leoncio Construction and Trading in Sorsogon, and has repeatedly mentioned that there are other Cabinet officials who are part of this scheme in the Bicol region. But during the House Committee on Rules hearing in Naga City last week, Andaya claimed that CT Leoncio Construction and Trading was only a front contractor, and that the firm of Diokno's in-laws, Aremar Construction Corp., is the one that bags contracts from the winning bidders.

Apart from this, Andaya also alleged that the Department of Budget and Management also inserted P385-million worth of projects supposedly for flood control in Casiguran, Sorsogon.