Biazon pleads not guilty to pork barrel scam raps
Former Customs Commissioner and now Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to malversation, graft and direct bribery charges arising from his alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam.
During his scheduled arraignment before the Sandiganbayan Seventh Division, Biazon appeared before the court and entered a not guilty plea.
In an interview, Biazon said he has faith in the court to judiciously hear his charges, which he said did not affect his performance as incumbent Muntinlupa representative.
“I don’t see it affecting my performance in Congress. In fact, I’ve been facing it; I went through an election. My constituent recognize the work I have done in the past. I overwhelmingly won in that election,” Biazon told reporters.
“And now I’m doing my job in Congress. It does not affect my job in Congress. In fact, it drives me to perform better,” he added.
Biazon faced the charges after the Office of the Special Prosecutor filed one count each of malversation, graft and direct bribery against Biazon for his alleged criminal activities as Muntinlupa representative in 2007 in connection with the Janet Lim-Napoles pork barrel scam.
Biazon is an ally of erstwhile President Benigno Aquino III in the Liberal Party. He resigned as customs commissioner in 2013 after the Department of Justice included him in the pork barrel scam complaint.
Charged along with Biazon is his alleged agent, former Energy Regulatory Commission chair Zenaida Ducut, also a former Pampanga representative, who supposedly acted as an agent for Napoles in the House of Representatives.
Ducut was said to have toured Napoles in the House of Representatives, according to whistleblower Merlina Suñas.
According to the malversation charge, Biazon with Ducut “willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously appropriate, take, misappropriate, and or allow Napoles to take public funds” worth P2.7 million.
Biazon allegedly misappropriated P3 million of his Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) to Napoles’ bogus foundation, Philippine Social Development Foundation (PSDFI), which implemented Biazon’s pork barrel funds intended for livelihood projects for the barangays (villages) of Muntinlupa.
Biazon and his respondents were also charged with violating Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for causing undue injury to government in coursing his pork barrel funds to the spurious foundation without public bidding, committing evident bad faith, manifest partiality, and gross inexcusable negligence.
The project using Biazon’s PDAF turned out to be non-existent.
“Biazon and the above-named public officials appropriated, took, misappropriated, and/or allowed Napoles and her cohorts, through PSDFI, to take possession and thus misappropriate PDAF-drawn public funds instead of implementing the PDAF-funded projects, which turned out to be non-existent,” the prosecution said.
Biazon was also charged with direct bribery for allegedly receiving P1.95 million from Napoles in exchange for his endorsement of her nongovernment organization to receive his pork barrel funds.
“Biazon, through Ducut, received commissions and/or ‘kickbacks’ from Napoles in consideration of his participation and collaboration as described above,” the prosecution said.
The prosecutors said Biazon endorsed the foundation to the implementing agency which was supposed to implement the project without conducting a public bidding.
They said Biazon chose the implementing agency Technology Resource Center (TRC) to course his PDAF to the bogus foundation.
Also charged with Biazon were Napoles and her employee Evelyn De Leon for preparing the acceptance and delivery reports, disbursement reports, project proposal, and other liquidation documents to “conceal the fictitious nature of the transaction, to the damage and prejudice of the Republic of the Philippines,” the prosecution said.
The prosecution also charged TRC officials with failing to verify the qualifications of the bogus foundation—director general Antonio Ortiz, deputy director general Dennis Cunanan, group manager Maria Rosalinda Lacsamana, group manager Francisco Figura, budget officer Consuelo Espiritu, chief accountant Marivic Jover, and internal auditor V and division chief Maurine Dimaranan.
For expediting the issuance of special allotment release orders to release Biazon’s PDAF, budget undersecretary Mario Relampagos was also charged with his staff Rosario Nuñez, Marilou Bare, and Lalaine Paule. CDG/rga
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