Customs chief got kickbacks when he was solon – NBI
CUSTOMS Commissioner Ruffy Biazon was among seven former lawmakers charged with direct bribery and graft and corruption for allegedly receiving kickbacks from the release of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to questionable non-government organizations (NGOs) linked with Janet Lim-Napoles.
Aside from the former members of the House of Representatives, three heads of government agencies, two presidents of NGOs, 12 auditors of the Commission on Audit (COA) and several other individuals were indicted at the Office of the Ombudsman.
Biazon is a member of the ruling Liberal Party. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said it is up to him if he will quit his post as Customs chief.
Malacañang declined to comment on the charging of the President’s party-mate, but Palace Deputy Presidential spokesman Abigail Valte said the charges against the respondents are based on evidence.
Janet Lim-Napoles, the supposed brains of the pork barrel scam, was also charged as a principal suspect.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) brought a truckload of documents and evidence to the Office of the Ombudsman in Agham Road, Quezon City on Friday.
De Lima included Biazon in the charge sheet after investigators gathered enough evidence such as affidavits and pertinent documents from the Commission on Audit (COA) to pin down the 45-year-old son of former Armed Forces chief and now Muntinlupa City Rep. Rodolfo Biazon.
The NBI did not file plunder charges against Biazon and his co-accused because their alleged individual kickbacks were lower than the P50-million ceiling for plunder.
The NBI said when he was still a congressman, Biazon pocketed P1.95 million from the release of his pork barrel to questionable NGOs.
Former lawmakers Douglas Cagas of Davao del Sur allegedly got P9.3 million, Salacnib Baterina of Ilocos Sur, P7.5 million, Marc Douglas Cagas 4th of Davao del Norte, P5.54 million, Arrel Olano of Davao del Norte, P3.175 million, Arthur Pingoy Jr. of South Cotabato, P7.055 million and Rodolfo Valencia of Oriental Mindoro, P2.4 million.
Also in the charges sheet were the alleged “representatives’ of the former lawmakers — Zenaida Cruz-Ducut, former congressman of Pampanga and incumbent chairman of the Energy Regulatory Commission, and Celia Cuasay.
Also charged were Alan Javellana, former president of the National Agribusiness Corp (Nabcor), Antonio Ortiz, former director general of the Technology Resource Center (TRC) and Dennis Cunanan, former deputy director general (now the director general).
Javellana, Ortiz and Cunanan were also among those charged in the first batch of pork barrel scam-related complaint filed by the NBI.
Also charged yesterday were two heads of Napoles-controlled NGOs — Mylene Encarnacion of the Countryside Agri and Rural Economic and Development Foundation Inc (CARED) and Evelyn de Leon of the Philippine Social Development Foundation, Inc. (PSDFI). Officials and employees of implementing agencies — Victor Cacal, Romulo Revelo, Ma. Ninez Guanizo, Ma. Julie Villaralvo-Johnson, and Rhodora Mendoza of Nabcor and Francisco Figura and Marivic Jover of TRC—were likewise indicted.
The COA resident auditors named as respondents were Annie Recabo as team leader and her subordinates Rebecca Aquino, Bella Tesorero, Susan Guardian, Elizabeth Savella, Merle Valentin, Diana Casado, Aida Villania, Laarni Lyn Torres, and Herminia Aquino as supervising auditor.
Biazon said he was willing to face the allegations.
“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 in a statement.
The Customs commissioner said he had always exercised prudence and fidelity as a lawmaker.
Biazon said that in some instances, the processes involved have been vulnerable to abuse.
“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 said.
NBI investigators culled evidence from the pork barrel releases from 2007 to 2009 as shown in the COA audit.
“Our theory is that they’re all co-conspirators with varying roles, varying degrees of involvement or culpability,” De Lima said.
She said more former lawmakers should have been charged but they learned that four former congressmen have died.
De Lima said her office is considering issuing a lookout bulletin, including the sending of a request to the Department of Foreign Affairs, to cancel the passports of the respondents.
The government earlier filed plunder charges against Napoles and senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada.