Palace: Up to Biazon to vacate position
Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) - December 1, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang yesterday said it is really up to Customs Commissioner Rufino Biazon to go on leave or resign in view of the charges he is facing for his alleged links to the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., when asked if Biazon should resign out of delicadeza, cited Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s statement that there is “no legal compulsion” for him to do so while the review and evaluation of the complaint are ongoing.

“Iyong delicadeza po kasi ay indibidwal na desisyon (Delicadeza is an individual decision),” he added.

He said President Aquino also plans to talk to Biazon about the issue, but noted that he has no information if the Customs chief is on the way out.

“That’s the only thing he said,” Coloma said when asked to elaborate.

Biazon is among the 34 individuals in the second batch of respondents in the cases of malversation, direct bribery and graft filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) for the alleged misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

On whether Biazon still enjoys the trust and confidence of the President, Coloma said there was no indication to the contrary.

“We are just talking about objective reality. For everyone serving the Cabinet and the government who are presidential appointees, the principle is always that everyone serves at the pleasure of the President,” he said.

In his State of the Nation Address, Aquino stressed the need to overhaul the Bureau of Customs, noting that corruption had become endemic and people seemed unafraid of authorities.

Coloma said an appointive official’s continued stay in office would always depend on the trust and confidence of the President on one hand and the desire of the appointee on the other.

“I’m just mentioning the reality that in the past, there were many questions on that in the context of the President’s SONA and the reforms put in place,” he said, adding that recent developments such as the filing of cases were separate from the previous context.

Coloma also said the President’s stand on the issue concerning Biazon and his other allies in connection with the alleged pork barrel misuse has been consistent.

He said the President, since the issue came out, gave assurance that there will be no special treatment of anyone, regardless of his political affiliation.

“Let the evidence point to the direction of the inquiry,” he said, noting the presidential view that the law applies equally to all.

 

Surprised

Meanwhile, former Ilocos Sur congressman Salacnib Baterina expressed surprise that he was included in the second batch of respondents.

He said he would issue a statement when he gets hold of the charge sheet.

“I don’t know about the incident yet. The events may have happened seven years ago, I am not sure how things occurred,” Baterina told The STAR.

Baterina’s supporters also defended the former lawmaker, saying he could not have been involved in “ghost” projects that suspected PDAF scam operator Janet Napoles ran.

“There must be a mistake in the investigation,” Rodrigo Tan of Sto. Domingo town said. “He has been an efficient and systematic provider of projects in our district. He would personally monitor the progress of every project making sure there is no hanky panky in the use of public funds.”

Baterina, whose career in Congress started during the martial law-era Batasang Pambansa in l978, has not been involved in any controversy. He ended his congressional career in 2007, giving way to Rep. Ronald Singson, son of former governor Luis “Chavit” Singson. – With Teddy Molina

BATASANG PAMBANSA BATERINA BIAZON BUREAU OF CUSTOMS COLOMA CUSTOMS COMMISSIONER RUFINO BIAZON DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE ILOCOS SUR JANET NAPOLES JUSTICE SECRETARY LEILA
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