Two more political allies of President Benigno Aquino 3rd will be in the new set of government officials who will be indicted for plunder for allegedly pocketing huge kickbacks from congressional fund insertions and from funds released through the National Anti-Poverty Commission.
Levito Baligod, the counsel of the witnesses in the pork barrel scam involving Janet Lim-Napoles, refused to identify the two officials by name, saying only one is a former member of the House of Representatives who is now a senator, and the other was once considered a senatorial “material” who is now holding a government position. This official was bumped out of the senatorial slate of the Liberal Party after its officials decided to accommodate bets other parties to strengthen the administration’s chances of getting majority of the Senate seats.
There are five senators who came from the House— Cynthia Villar, Teofisto Guingona 3rd, Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Francis “Chiz” Escudero and Jose Victor “JV” Ejercito.
Ejercito is a member of the opposition block in the Senate. Villar, a member of the Nacionalista Party, is seen as a friend of the President because her party and the ruling Liberal Party entered into a coalition before this year’s national elections.
Baligod said a number of sitting and former members of the House are among those to be charged in the third batch of complaints to be filed by the Department of Justice for misuse of government funds.
The plunder complaint, which is expected to be filed within the month or early in January, will be based on the testimonies of three of four new witnesses who are “reliable” officers of government agencies who implemented projects funded by questionable allotments.
The DOJ earlier filed plunder charges against senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla for allegedly getting fat commissions from the release of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
Baligod said the next criminal complaint will have nothing to do with the pork barrel. The charges, he said, arose from the illegal fund insertions, questionable use of public funds through the NAPC and the illegal bonuses that lawmakers gave themselves as members of the powerful Commission on Appointments. The bicameral panel has 25 members led by the Senate President.
“We hope to change the political landscape particularly at the local level since more members of the Lower House will be included [in the charge sheet],” the lawyer said.
“We expect a new voting trend come the 2016 polls,” he added.
Baligod said more lawmakers will be implicated because the cases are based on documents from 2004 to 2010, which the witnesses have patiently browsed and identified.
Last week, Customs Commissioner Rufino “Ruffy” Biazon was among the officials indicted at the Office of the Ombudsman for malversation and graft. Like Enrile, Estrada and Revilla, he was accused of funneling part of his pork barrel to NGOs linked to Napoles, who was also named respondent in the first and second batches of pork-related cases.
On Sunday, a Malacañang official said the President will meet with Biazon but that there is no pressure for the Customs chief to resign.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said there is “no legal compulsion” for Biazon to go on leave while the charges filed are still being reviewed and evaluated by the Office of the Ombudsman.
Malacañang on Sunday denied that Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon has been asked to resign or take a leave of absence following his inclusion in the second batch of respondents in the pork barrel scam.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said there is “no legal compulsion” for Biazon to go on leave while the charges are being evaluated by the Office of the Ombudsman.
“There’s no legal compulsion for him to go on leave, based on existing laws. We leave it up to him to decide on that,” Coloma said
He said President Benigno Aquino 3rd will meet with Biazon on the matter, but refused to elaborate.
Coloma downplayed reports that Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima is trying to ease out Biazon from the bureau.
Reports earlier revealed that once Biazon is eased out, Purisima can take full control of Customs operations.
Purisima, whose department has jurisdiction over the Customs bureau, has been calling the shots in relations to Customs matters.
Biazon was among 34 individuals charged with malversation, direct bribery, graft and corrupt practices before the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly coursing his PDAF when he was a congressman to non-government organizations set up by suspected mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.
Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte said the filing of the malversation case against Biazon is proof that there are no sacred cows in the Aquino administration.
“From the President’s point of view, he has always said that you go where the evidence takes you. We have always said that there is no partiality,” Valte said
“I think that has been repeated, not just by the President, but by the investigators themselves, by the Secretary of Justice. And, you know, people will interpret things according to how they see it but these are the facts,” Valte said.