BOC chief, 33 others face pork scam raps

Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star) - November 30, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Charges of malversation, direct bribery and graft were filed yesterday with the Office of the Ombudsman against 34 individuals – including Bureau of Customs chief Rufino Biazon and six former congressmen – for their alleged links to the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam.


Also included in the complaint was alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.

The 34 individuals represented the second batch of respondents in criminal cases – including plunder – filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in connection with alleged irregularities in the disbursement of the congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel.

Lawyer Levito Baligod, representing whistle-blowers in the case, acted as private complainant.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said that aside from Biazon who was a Muntinlupa City congressman, the other former congressmen named as respondents were Salacnib Baterina from Ilocos Sur, Douglas Cagas from Davao del Sur, Marc Douglas Cagas IV also from Davao del Sur, Arrel Olano from Davao del Norte, Arthur Pingoy Jr. from South Cotabato, and Rodolfo Valencia from Oriental Mindoro.

Four other congressmen who had died were dropped from the list, De Lima said. She refused to name them.

Also named respondent was Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) chairman Zenaida Cruz-Ducut, who had served as Pampanga congresswoman.

Based on the complaint, Ducut, along with Celia Cuasay, reportedly acted as representative of the lawmakers.

Ducut reportedly acted as the agent of Baterina, Biazon, Douglas Cagas and his son Marc Douglas, and Pingoy. Cuasay acted as agent of Valencia.

Three heads of agencies named in the complaint were Alan Javellana, former president of the National Agribusiness Corp. (NABCOR); Antonio Ortiz, former director general of Technology Resource Center (TRC); and Dennis Cunanan, TRC director general.

Javellana, Ortiz and Cunanan were also included in the list of respondents in the first PDAF case.

Also named respondents were two presidents of non-government organizations (NGO) linked to Napoles. They were Mylene Encarnacion of the Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic and Development Foundation Inc. (CARED) and Evelyn de Leon of the Philippine Social Development Fund Inc.

The NBI also included in the complaint seven officials and employees of agencies implementing PDAF projects – Victor Cacal, Romulo Relevo, Ma. Ninez Guanizo, Ma. Julie Villaralvo-Johnson, and Rhodora Mendoza from NABCOR and Francisco Figura and Marivic Jover from TRC. The seven individuals were also mentioned in the first PDAF case.

Commission on Audit (COA) personnel suspected of complicity in the PDAF scam were NABCOR resident auditors Annie Recabo, Rebecca Aquino, Bella Tesorero, Susan Guardian, Elizabeth Savella, Merle Valentin, Diane Casado, Aida Villania, Laarnie Lyn Torres, Herminia SD Aquino, Jerry Calayan and Sylvia Montes.


No politics

 De Lima said Biazon’s inclusion in the complaint only proved that there was no politics in the filing of the complaint. Biazon is a member of the ruling Liberal Party.

“Political affiliation is not part of the criteria. We only learn of their political affiliation once the evidence is complete and it is clear to me, then we check on their political affiliation,” said De Lima.

She said that just like the first batch of respondents, those named in the latest complaint would still be investigated by an independent team from the Office of the Ombudsman. 

“So strictly speaking, there is no formal case (yet). While there are already recommendations to be charged and subjected to preliminary investigation, there is no preliminary investigation,” De Lima said.

“The field investigation office of the Ombudsman would go to areas where there were supposed to have been projects (sourced from the PDAF),” she said.

The NBI investigation drew inputs from a COA report on anomalies in PDAF use from 2007 to 2009.

The NBI complaint also included the amount of kickbacks of each of the seven former legislators.

Baterina’s Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) reached P9.6 million and his total kickback amounted to P7.50 million; Biazon’s SARO reached P2.7 million and his alleged kickback was placed at P1.95 million.

Of Douglas Cagas’ P15.36-million SARO, P9.30 million allegedly ended up in his pocket. Marc Douglas Cagas’ SARO reached P7.55 million but P5.54 million was reportedly stolen. Olano failed to account for P3.175 million. Pingoy’s SARO reached P20.91 million of which P7.055 million was unaccounted for and believed stolen. Valencia’s SARO reached P6.51 million and his alleged kickback was P2.40 million.


Spare no one

At Malacañang, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said it’s always been the administration’s commitment to spare no one – not even allies – in the investigation into the pork barrel scam.

“At least from the President’s point of view, he said you go where the evidence takes you. We always said there is no partiality,” Valte said in a press briefing.

She said there would always be people who would try to interpret things based on what they wanted to see.

“All related questions to the inclusion of Commissioner Biazon in the second batch of cases that are related to the PDAF scam, I would have to defer comment until such time that I have been able to speak with the President,” Valte said.

“And from what I understand, given the past pronouncements of the COA chair (Grace Pulido-Tan) herself, the COA is self-aware and that they have also started looking into the possibility that some auditors or resident auditors may be part of the crimes that have happened,” she said of the inclusion of some COA personnel in the NBI complaint.

Valte added the Palace would respect the processes being followed in relation to the cases.

“And while we in the executive understand the import of these cases, I would assume that the Ombudsman also would not want to be peppered with allegations of railroading,” Valte said when asked if Malacañang would urge the Ombudsman to move swiftly so that charges could be filed before the Sandiganbayan as soon as possible.  

Sought for comment on the inclusion of some COA personnel in the latest NBI complaint, Tan said: “We leave that to the disposition of the DOJ and the Office of the Ombudsman. For our part, we are doing our own investigation as I have said earlier.”  

Meanwhile, Senate Blue Ribbon committee chairman Teofisto Guingona III said he wants his panel to wrap up its probe into the pork barrel scam so it can proceed with its investigation into the alleged Malampaya fund misuse.

“If it is only up to me, I will already wrap up the Napoles PDAF scam because I feel that my objectives have been met,” Guingona said in a statement yesterday.

He said he has to consult first the members of the committee to get their sentiments about the direction of their investigation.

Senators Juan Edgardo Angara and Francis Escudero have no objection to Guingona’s plan but Grace Poe said they should first invite Napoles’ husband Jaime.

“We should also listen to what her husband has to say because he is said to be in charge of their other businesses,” Poe said. With Aurea Calica, Marvin Sy, Michael Punongbayan

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