Biazon, 33 others charged with graft

Posted at 11/29/2013 9:28 PM

MANILA (3rd UPDATE) - The second batch of complaints filed by the National Bureau of Investigation and whistleblowers in connection with the alleged multi-billion peso pork barrel scam was filed Friday at the Ombudsman.

Thirty-four individuals are now the subjects of complaints for malversation, bribery and graft, among them, the alleged perpetrator, Janet Lim-Napoles, who was earlier sued for plunder.

The former congressmen charged for alleged misuse of pork barrel funds are:

  • Ruffy Biazon, Muntinlupa
  • Salacnib Baterina, Ilocos Sur
  • Douglas Cagas, Davao del Sur
  • Marc Douglas Cagas IV, Davao del Sur
  • Arrel Olaño, Davao del Norte
  • Arthur Pingoy Jr., South Cotabato
  • Rodolfo Valencia, Oriental Mindoro.

The lawmakers reportedly earmarked some of their congressional allocation funds to benefit bogus non-profit organizations of Napoles from 2007 to 2009.

In return, they allegedly got kickbacks.

"Katulad din ng unang batch ang criteria. These lawmakers or former lawmakers used Napoles NGOs as conduits, based on the personal or direct knowledge of the whistleblowers, especially Benhur Luy and his accounting records, and, may supporting documents from COA," she said.

In the case of Biazon, an ally of the President and now a member of the executive branch, De Lima said she is no position to ask him to take a leave of absence.

"It's not for me to say that. We leave that to him," she said. "Hindi po nagiging criterion and political affiliation ng mga ito. Nalalaman na lang ho namin iyung political party affiliation pag kumpleto na mga ebidensya at kini-clear na sa kin. But we really do not harp on it."

Also charged were people who reportedly acted as conduits between the lawmakers and Napoles.

These include former Pampanga Representative Zenaida Cruz-Ducut, who now sits as chair of the Energy Regulatory Commission.

"The above lawmakers coursed their PDAF through one or two of the Napoles NGOs using either the Technology Resource Center (TRC) or the National Agribusiness Corporation (NABCOR), or both, as implementing agencies. Most of the former congressmen received their kickbacks from Napoles through Zenaida G. Cruz-Ducut, who is now the chair and CEO of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC)," the complaint read.

Those who led Napoles's non-profit groups aren't off the hook either, as are officials and employees of implementing agencies, the NABCOR and the TRC, where the lawmakers' funds were channelled.

Auditors from the Commission on Audit who reportedly looked the other way were also charged.

"'Di dapat ito nakakalusot sa level nila, lalo na pare-pareho NGOs nag-appear sa dokumento na dumaan sa kanila," de Lima said. "Especially sa post-auditing and mga MOA [Memorandum of Agreement], dapat it should have raised a red flag."

Four other deceased congressmen would have been charged as well. The DOJ does not want to announce their names to the public.

And while they all face the lesser charge of malversation and not plunder like the first batch of respondents, it remains a non-bailable offense due to the huge amounts of money involved and also carries with it a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

BIAZON READY TO FACE RAPS

Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon, in a press statement, said he is ready to answer all accusations that he pocketed P1.95 million in pork barrel funds when he was still congressman of Muntinlupa City.

Biazon said the accounting for public funds comes with the territory of serving in government, "whether it be at the lowest levels of local government or at the highest levels of national office."

"Therefore, I am willing and ready to face the allegations raised today pertaining to the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocated to my congressional district during my term as representative of the Lone District of Muntinlupa," he said.

The Customs chief said he always exercised prudence and fidelity in the performance of his duty as congressman of Muntinlupa as well as in other responsibilities to the public.

He said he pursued projects and programs that benefited his constituents.

"But as we have seen in some instances, the processes involved have been vulnerable to abuse by certain parties," he said.

"I have yet to see the documents pertinent to this issue, but I welcome the opportunity to clarify and answer the accusations, whether before the National Bureau of Investigation, the Office of the Ombudsman, or the courts," he added.

His father, incumbent Muntinlupa City Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, said he is confident that his son can present his case amid the allegations.

He added that the judicial process must be allowed to run its course.

"We should not connect this to party affiliations," the older Biazon said on ANC Prime Time.

He added those accused of involvement in the scam should have been the opportunity to explain their side.

"The side of those investigated should've been taken. They were not called to the probe. All of a sudden, bumulaga ito sa public," he added. -- with a report from David Dizon, ABS-CBN News