Biazon ordered suspended for 90 days amid pork scam raps
The Sandiganbayan seventh division has suspended for 90 days Muntinlupa Rep. Rozzano Rufino “Ruffy” Biazon as he faces multiple charges of malversation, graft and direct bribery over the alleged pork barrel scam.
In a resolution promulgated on Oct. 17, the antigraft court granted the Office of the Special Prosecutor’s motion to suspend Biazon, pending litigation, for his alleged involvement in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.
The court agreed with the mandatory suspension of public officials facing graft charges as well as the forfeiture of their benefits and salaries during the suspension.
“We grant the prosecution’s motion … Accused Biazon is hereby suspended from his position as Congressman of the lone district of Muntinlupa City, and from any other public office which he may now or hereafter be holding for a period of 90 days from receipt of this resolution, unless a motion for reconsideration is seasonably filed,” the court said.
In the motion to suspend pendente lite, the prosecution cited the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which states that an accused with a valid information of graft or violation of the Revised Penal Code involving fraud of government funds should be placed under preventive suspension.
According to Section 13 of the Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, public officials charged with a valid information of graft or violation of the Revised Penal Code involving fraud of government funds will be preventively suspended from office and lose his or her benefits at the time of his or her suspension.
In his comment opposition, Biazon said he was not convinced of the mandatory character of the graft suspension, because it purportedly restricted the court from exercising its constitutionally granted judicial power and discretion.
But Biazon said he was willing to submit to the legal process, preferring to be suspended starting Oct. 10 so he could sponsor and defend the proposed 2017 budget in Congress.
“While accused Biazon claims he is not convinced with the wisdom of the mandatory character of the above provision, this does not change the law and jurisprudence as it now stands,” the court said.
Biazon was arraigned on Sept. 6 and pleaded not guilty to pork barrel scam charges.
The prosecution said Biazon’s stay in office may hinder the prosecution of the alleged offense because he may use his position to tamper with evidence or intimidate witnesses.
The court also granted the preventive suspension of Biazon’s coaccused dismissed Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos, and his staff Marilou Bare, Rosario Nunez and Lalaine Paule, although they have already been dismissed from service.
Biazon faces one count each of malversation, graft and direct bribery for his alleged criminal activities as Muntinlupa representative in 2007 in connection with the scheme run by alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.
Biazon, an ally of former President Benigno Aquino III in the Liberal Party, resigned as Customs commissioner in 2013 after the Department of Justice included him in the pork barrel scam complaint.
Charged with Biazon was 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 whistle-blower 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 PDAF to Napoles’ bogus foundation, Philippine Social Development Foundation (PSDFI), which used his 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 nonexistent.
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.
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.
The court earlier suspended two other congressmen for graft—Pangasinan Rep. Amado Espino Jr. and Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte—but the lower House maintained its stance not to implement the suspension order as it stood pat on its power to discipline its own members.
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