Customs chief, 33 others in PDAF case
MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) – The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed on Friday, November 29, the second batch of complaints related to the pork barrel scam with the Office of the Ombudsman against 34 individuals, including an ally of President Benigno Aquino III.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said her department is recommending the filing in court of malversation charges against Bureau of Customs chief Rosanno Rufino "Ruffy" Biazon, a former congressman of Muntinlupa and a 2010 defeated senatorial candidate of the Liberal Party.
He is the first Aquino party mate to formally face a complaint in relation to the misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), although a number of administration allies have been implicated in the special state audit of the fund.
Biazon said he's ready to face the allegations.
Named in the complaints, including Biazon, are:
- 7 former congressmen
- 2 agents of congressmen
- 3 heads of implementing agencies
- 7 employees of implementing agencies
- 12 resident auditors of agencies
- Janet Lim Napoles
- 2 presidents of Napoles NGOs
Sought against the respondents are charges of malversation, bribery, and graft and corrupt practices. The amount of funds they helped misuse or pocket did not reach the P50-million threshold for plunder.
Four of them are also respondents in the first batch of PDAF-related complaints filed with the Ombudsman in September, including Napoles.
The pork barrel scam involves lawmakers endorsing their PDAF to bogus non-governmental organizations (NGOs) of alleged scam mastermind Napoles in exchange for hefty kickbacks. The funds are allocated with government agencies and corporations, and their endorsement and releases are facilitated by agents or staff of the lawmakers.
The National Bureau of Investigation had 4 criteria for including these respondents in the complaints, De Lima said:
- The fund they misused is the PDAF.
- They coursed the funds through Napoles’ NGOs.
- The whistleblowers have direct knowledge of their involvement, and their names appear in the book of accounts of state witness Benhur Luy.
- There are documents from the Commission on Audit that support their involvement in the scam.
De Lima said the complaints covered only PDAF misuse from 2007-2009 because documents for these were easily accessible, given the special report done by theCommission on Audit (COA). The justice department is still gathering documents outside of that period, she said.
Investigators are allowed to file supplemental letters of complaint if additional evidence are gathered.
The 7 former congressmen in the complaints and the amount of the alleged kickbacks are:
- Douglas Cagas (Davao del Sur) – P9.3-million kickback from a P15.3-million SARO released to PSDFI and CARED
- Arthur Pinggoy Jr (South Cotabato) – P7.55-million kickback from a P20.9-million SARO released to PSDFI
- Salacnib Baterina (Ilocos Sur) – P7.5-million kickback from a P9.6-million Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) released to PSDFI
- Marc Douglas Cagas IV (Davao del Sur) – P5.5-million kickback from a P7.5-million SARO released to SDPFFI and POPDFI
- Arrel Olaño (Davao del Norte) – P3.17-million kickback from a P7.9-million SARO released to PSDFI
- Rodolfo Valencia (Oriental Mindoro) – P2.4-million kickback from a P6.5-million SARO released to MAMFI
- Rozzano Rufino Biazon (Muntinlupa) – P1.95-million kickback from a P2.7-million SARO released to PSDFI
De Lima said they were originally preparing complaints against 11 former congressmen, but learned that 4 of them had died.
Asked about Biazon, De Lima said: "[The complaint] has no effect yet on his incumbency because just like the first batch of PDAF complaints it will first pass the Office of the Ombudsman and will be assessed by a team there before it will go to preliminary investigation."
Should he take a leave? "It's not for me to say. We leave it up to him," De Lima added.
Biazon already offered to quit in July after President Aquino lambasted his agency for incompetence and failure to meet revenue targets during his State of the Nation Address. The President refused to accept his resignation.
Also on Friday, Malacañang said the filing of charges against Biazon supports the President's earlier statement that it will follow the evidence, regardless of party affiliation.
"We have always said that there is no partiality. I think that has been repeated, not just by the President, but by the investigators themselves, by the Secretary of Justice," said Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte.
Valencia was also a member of the ruling Liberal Party when he finished his term early this year.
Agents, government officials
Two persons liaising for congressmen are among the respondents:
- Celia Cuasaya – representing Oriental Mindoro's Valencia
- Zenaida Cruz Ducut – former congresswoman of Pampanga and currently chair of the Energy Regulatory Commission; representing Baterina, Biazon, father and son Cagas, and Pingoy.
The respondents from the National Agri-Business Corporation (Nabcor), the government corporation that got the biggest chunk of PDAF are the following:
- Alan Javellana – former president, also charged in first batch
- Victor Cacal
- Romulo Relevo
- Ma. Ninez Guanizo
- Ma. Julie Villaralvo-Johnson
- Rhodora Mendoza
- Francisco Figura
- Marivic Jover
The respondents from the Technology Resource Center are:
- Antonio Ortiz – former director general, also charged in first batch
- Dennis Cunanan – former deputy, now director general, also charged in first batch
Resident auditors of these two agencies are included in the complaints. De Lima said the theory is “they are all co-conspirators,” having ignored the red flag and failed to exercise due diligence. They are:
- Annie Recabo – team leader at Nabcor
- Herminia Aquino – supervising auditor at Nabcor
- Rebecca Aquino – Nabcor
- Bella Tesorero – Nabcor
- Susan Guardian – Nabcor
- Elizabeth Savea – Nabcor
- Merle Valentin – Nabcor
- Diana Casado – Nabcor
- Aida Villania – Nabcor
- Laarni Lyn Torres – Nabcor
- Jerry Calayan – team leader at TRC
- Sylvia Montes – supervising auditor at TRC
Alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles is also a respondent, together with the presidents of two of her bogus NGOs:
- Mylene Encarnacion – Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic and Development Foundation Incorporated (CARED)
- Evelyn de Leon – Philippine Social Development Foundation Incorported (PSDFI)
The filing comes over 3 months after the first batch of cases. The delay was partly caused by the difficulty to obtain documents from COA and implementing agencies, according to Levi Baligod, the lawyer of whistleblowers.
Private complainant Levi Baligod, counsel for the whistleblowers, gave assurances however that supporting documents against those accused are complete.
The new list of respondents join the 38 other people originally charged by the DOJ. The first batch of cases includes senators Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile, and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, 5 other former congressmen, as well as lawmakers' staff.
Napoles is currently being detained in Laguna for a separate serious illegal detention case for the kidnapping of her personal assistant turned whistleblower, Benhur Luy. She denies any wrongdoing and involvement in the pork barrel scam. – Rappler.com