More lawmakers are expected to be charged with plunder this month for allegedly squandering public money.
Levito Baligod, the counsel of Benhur Luy who revealed the illegal releases of pork barrel funds, said the government is readying charges against a number of legislators and other government officials.
He said the case is no longer connected with the alleged misuse Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel of lawmakers.
Baligod disclosed that a new group of witnesses have surfaced and the new complaint will be based on the testimonies of a new group of whistleblowers.
He said two more plunder cases will be filed by the National Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice (DOJ) at the Office of the Ombudsman. One will cover the illegal use of non-legislative fund, such as the special funds of the National Anti-Poverty Commission, congressional insertions and the bonuses that certain lawmakers get from holding positions at the Commission on Appointments.
The amounts involved in the complaints exceeded P50 million, Baligod said.
So far, the DOJ has filed two batches of criminal complaints against dozens of personalities, including lawmakers, heads of government agencies, and Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged brains of the pork barrel scam. In the first batch, senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla were among those charged.
Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon led the respondents in the second batch, which included former members of the House of Representatives. They were charged with receiving millions of pesos in commissions after releasing part of the PDAF to Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) owned or controlled by Napoles.
Baligod said the third set of criminal charges will focus on the release of non-PDAF monies coursed through Napoles NGOs.
“These cases are on the plunder level, meaning, over P50 million,” he told reporters.
Baligod said four “middle-grade government officials” are working with him in preparing the charges. These officials had filed complaints before the Commission on Audit but the agency failed to act on them.
An opposition lawmaker suggestion that Biazon go on a leave on absence while the case implicating him in the PDAF scam is being investigated.
”Resignation is the call of the person involved, but if I were the President, I would ask him [Biazon] to go on leave.
This would show good faith on the part of the Aquino administration; that it really demands transparency and accountability,” Isabela Rep. Rodito Albano 3rd said in a text message.
House Deputy Majority Leader Sherwin Tugna of Citizens Battle Against Corruption agreed that a public official should have the delicadeza to step down.
“The best thing for Commissioner Biazon is to completely submit to the process before the Office of the Ombudsman,” Tugna, an ally of President Benigno Aquino 3rd, said.
The graft case is another blow for Biazon, who had been reprimanded by the President for failing to curb smuggling in the Bureau of Customs.
Despite the scolding, the Palace has never asked for Biazon’s resignation or even asked him to go on leave.
”The complaint [against Biazon]has been submitted for review and evaluation by the Ombudsman. While this review and evaluation process is ongoing, there is no legal compulsion where Commissioner Biazon to go on leave,” Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. of the Presidential Communications Operations Office said Saturday.
”What the President said is that he will talk to Commissioner Biazon with regards to the case,” Coloma added.
Biazon, a member of the ruling Liberal Party (LP), was a former Muntinlupa City congressman. He ran for the Senate in 2010 and lost.