PDAF scam: Biazon, 33 others charged
7 Former Congressmen Among Those Facing Raps
Manila, Philippines – The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) yesterday filed graft charges against Liberal Party (LP) member and Bureau of Customs Commissioner Rozzano “Ruffy” Biazon and 33 others for allegedly diverting billions of pesos of their pork barrel funds to several dubious non-government organizations (NGOs).
Biazon, a former Muntinlupa lawmaker, was the first well-known ally of President Benigno S. Aquino III to be dragged into the P10-billion pork barrel scam since the NBI started investigating last May the illegal racket allegedly masterminded by businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles.
“Political party is not a requirement. It’s not supposed to be a criterion,” Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said in a press briefing at the Department of Justice, in what may be described as an indirect swipe at her critics.
The filing of graft and bribery charges against Biazon and 33 others showed the government has “no partiality” and will follow the evidence wherever it leads, Deputy Presidential Spokeswoman Abigail Valte said.
Biazon said he is ready and willing to face allegations linking him to the PDAF scam.
“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,” Biazon said in a press statement.
Aside from Biazon, charged before the Office of the Ombudsman with malversation of public funds were former Ilocos Sur 1st District Rep. Salacnib Baterina, former Davao Del Sur 1st District Rep. Douglas Cagas and Marc Douglas Cagas IV, former Davao del Norte 1st District Rep. Arrel Olano, former South Cotabato 2nd District Rep. Arthur Pingoy Jr., former Oriental Mindoro 1st District Rep. Rodolfo Valencia, and former Pampanga 2nd District Rep. Zenaida Ducut, now chairman of the Energy Regulatory Commission.
Ducut was included in the complaint for acting as representative of congressmen Baterina, Biazon, Cagas, Cagas IV, and Pingoy.
Others included in the complaint were Celia Cuasay, representative of Valencia; Alan Javellana, former president of the National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor); Antonio Ortiz, former director general of Technology Resource Center (TRC); Dennis Cunanan, former deputy director general (now director general) of TRC; Nabcor employees Victor Cacal, Romulo Relevo, Ma. Ninez Guanizo, Ma. Julie Villaralvo Johnson, and Rhodora Mendoza. Other TRC employees implicated were Francisco Figura and Marivic Jover.
The NBI also included the resident auditors of Nabcor and TRC, and presidents of the five NGOs established by Napoles, also a respondent in this case.
Based on the NBI’s investigation, the lawmakers coursed their PDAF through one or two of the Napoles’ NGOs using either the TRC or the Nabcor, or both, as implementing agencies.
The NBI alleged that Baterina received a total of P7.5 million in kickback; Biazon, P1.95 million; Cagas, P9.3 million; Cagas IV, P5.54 million; Olano, P3.17 million; Pingoy, P7.05 million; and Valencia, P2.4 million.
“The lawmakers took advantage and abused their official position and authority as congressmen of the Republic, thereby unjustly enriching themselves at the expense and to the damage and prejudice of the people and the Republic,” the NBI report stated.
“The acts constituting the offenses were performed willfully, deliberately, and maliciously with the legislators knowing fully well that their act of receiving the large amounts of cash from Napoles for their private use resulted in the corresponding diminution of the funds actually expended for the public purpose intended by law,” it added.
How It Started
Citing the report of the NBI, De Lima said the scheme starts with an agreement between Napoles and the lawmaker where the latter promises to designate Napoles’ NGOs as the recipient of his PDAF fund supposedly to implement projects based on the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) menu.
In exchange for selecting the Napoles NGOs, the lawmaker will receive from Napoles his agreed share of kickback.
The DBM, in turn, issues a SARO to the lawmaker who then endorses a selected Napoles NGO to the implementing agency, which in turn without any public bidding, enters into a memorandum of agreement with the NGO for the implementation of the project.
The representative of the lawmaker who facilitates documents and follows up with agencies gets around one to five percent of the project cost also as kickback.
De Lima said the respondent congressmen receive their kickbacks from Napoles through Ducut.
“The crimes of malversation, bribery, and other graft and corrupt practices were thus committed when the lawmakers received from Napoles kickbacks in substantial percentages of the Special Allotment Release Orders (SARO) amounts for every project endorsed by the lawmaker to a Napoles NGO,” the NBI said in its report.
“These kickbacks are the lawmakers’ bribe for giving undue favor to a Napoles’ NGO, or represent his illegally contracted share from a malversation scheme designed to misuse and misappropriate public funds entrusted to him, and which he appropriates instead for private gain rather than the public benefit intended by law,” it added.
The new string of complaints came more than two months after the first batch of PDAF-related criminal charges were lodged against 38 individuals, including Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Revilla Jr., and Jinggoy Estrada, as well as Napoles.
Asked why no senators were included in the fresh charges this time, De Lima said no Senate members this time qualified in the four “standards” investigators used in determining who to be charged.
She enumerated the four standards as: Those who used Napoles NGOs; those who used the PDAF; those who have knowledge of the scam and the whistleblowers; and supporting documents from the COA.
Meanwhile, De Lima maintained the government’s position that all the respondents are considered “co-conspirators with varying degrees of participation.” (With reports from Genalyn D. Kabiling and Jenny F. Manongdo)