- Category: Economy
29 Nov 2013
- Written by Joel R. San Juan
THE National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Friday filed criminal charges of malversation, bribery and graft corrupt practices before the Office of the Ombudsman against 34 individuals, including former Muntinlupa Congressman and now Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Rozzano Rufino Biazon in connection with the alleged misuse of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork-barrel fund.
Biazon is the first ally and party-mate of President Aquino in the Liberal Party who has so far been charged since the pork-barrel scam was uncovered.
Aside from Biazon, six other former lawmakers were also named as respondents in the second batch of PDAF-related cases, namely incumbent or former Congressmen Salacnib Baterina, of the First District of Ilocos Sur; Douglas Cagas of the First District of Davao del Sur and his son Marc Douglas Cagas IV also of the same district; Arrel Olano, of the First District of Davao del Norte; Arthur Pingoy Jr., of the Second District of South Cotabato; and Rodolfo Valencia, of the First District of Oriental Mindoro.
At a news briefing, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima insisted that political affiliation is not a consideration in the filing of the complaint.
The Department of Justice chief, however, said Biazon’s inclusion in the case should not affect his current post in the government as the case would still has to undergo independent evaluation by Ombudsman investigators prior to the conduct of a preliminary investigation.
“[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,” de Lima said.
Also among the 34 respondents were the former lawmakers representatives, the heads and other officials of two implementing agencies—the Technology Resource Center (TRC) and National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor)—their respective resident Commission on Audit (COA) auditors, and presidents of the five non-governmental organizations (NGOs) established by alleged pork-barrel scam mastermind, Janet Lim-Napoles, also a respondent in this case.
The NBI filed in September plunder, malversation and bribery charges with the Ombudsman the first batch of cases related to PDAF misuse against 38 individuals, including Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.
De Lima said the so-called Napoles NGOs—the Philippine Social Development Foundation Inc. (PSDFI), Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic Development Foundation Inc. (CARED), Social Development Program for Farmers Foundation Inc., People’s Organization for Progress and Development Foundation Inc. and Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc.—were allegedly used by the lawmakers to divert their PDAF allocations.
Also charged were representatives of the said lawmakers namely Zenaida Cruz-Ducut, former congressman of Pampanga’s Second District, now chairman of the Energy Regulatory Commission and Celia Cuasay, representative of Valencia.
De Lima said the respondent congressmen received their kickbacks from Napoles through Cruz-Ducut.
“The crimes of malversation, bribery, and other graft and corrupt practices were thus committed when respondent lawmakers allegedly received from Napoles kickbacks in substantial percentages of the Saro [Special allotment Release Orders] 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.
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 NBI said based on its investigation, the scheme starts with an agreement between Napoles and the lawmaker where the latter promises to designate Napoles’s NGOs as the recipient of his PDAF fund for purposes of supposedly implementing projects in the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) menu of projects that can be financed with the use of the lawmakers’ PDAF.
In exchange for selecting the Napoles NGOs, the lawmaker in turn will allegedly receive from Napoles the 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 do a follow up with concerned agencies gets around 1 percent to 5 percent of the project cost also as kickback.
“In the end, there is really nothing to monitor, because all the funds that were supposed to be used for the project had in reality already been pocketed by the lawmaker, Napoles, the head of the implementing agency, the lawmaker’s representative, and other officials whose signatures were needed to facilitate the scam and are bribed to look the other way,” the NBI said.
De Lima said the scheme could not have been perpetrated without the connivance of the heads and officials of the implementing agencies, as well as their resident COA auditors.
Thus, the NBI also charged Alan Javellana, NABCOR former president; Antonio Ortiz, former director general of TRC; Dennis Cunanan, former Deputy Director General of TRC; Victor Cacal, Romulo Relevo, Ma. Ninez Guanizo, Ma. Julie Villaralvo-Johnson and Rhodora Mendoza, all belonging to Nabcor; Francisco Figura and Marivic Jover, of TRC.
Also recommended to be charged are resident auditors of Nabcor namely Annie Recabo, Rebecca Aquino, Bella Tesorero, Susan Guardian, Elizabeth Savella, Merle Valentin, Diana Casado, Aida Villania, Laarni Lyn Torres and Herminia Aquino and TRC resident auditors identified as Jerry Calayan and Sylvia Montes.
The NBI also charged Napoles NGO presidents namely Mylene Encarnacion of CARED and Evelyn de Leon of PSDFI.
“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.
Reacting after the filing of the charges, Biazon said, “I had always exercised prudence and fidelity in the performance of my duty as representative of Muntinlupa, as well as in other responsibilities to the public, and pursued projects and programs” that benefited my constituents.
“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.