Biazon suspended over graft
The Sandiganbayan has ordered the 90-day suspension of Muntinlupa City Rep. Rozzano Rufino Biazon over graft charges in connection with the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam.
Also ordered suspended for three months were Department of Budget and Management Undersecretary Mario Relampagos and his staffers Rosario Nunez, Lalaine Paule and Marilou Bare.
In a five-page resolution dated Oct. 17 but only released Thursday, the antigraft court’s Seventh Division affirmed the suspensions pending litigation on graft charges.
Biazon had questioned the suspension provided for under Section 13 of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. But the court said his misgivings did “not change the law and jurisprudence as it now stands.”
Meanwhile, Relampagos and the other DBM officials said they should not be placed under preventive suspension, claiming the evidence against them was weak.
The court however rejected the claim, since it had already denied their motion for judicial determination of probable cause.
“Once a proper determination of the validity of the information has been made, it becomes the ministerial duty of the court to forthwith issue the order of preventive suspension,” the resolution said.
It said that numerous Supreme Court decisions had ruled that suspension was mandatory if the validity of the charges had been determined.
Because of this, the order directed House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno to inform the court of their actions within five days of receipt.
The suspension of the five accused would automatically be lifted upon the expiration of the 90-day period.
Associate Justice Zaldy V. Trespeses penned the resolution, with the concurrence of Associate Justices Alexander G. Gesmundo and Ma. Theresa Dolores C. Gomez-Estoesta.
The case arose from Biazon’s endorsement of P3 million of his Priority Development Assistance Fund allocations, or pork barrel, as Muntinlupa representative in 2007 to the Janet Napoles-controlled nongovernment organization Philippine Social Foundation Inc., with the now-defunct Technology Resource Center as the implementing agency.
Besides graft, Biazon and the DBM officials also face a malversation charge for the alleged misuse of the funds.
Graft and malversation charges were also filed against the lawmaker’s alleged agent, former Energy Regulatory Commission chair and Pampanga Rep. Zenaida Cruz-Ducut, as well as Napoles and former TRC executives Arturo Ortiz, Dennis Cunanan and Francisco Figura.
Biazon was likewise charged with direct bribery for allegedly receiving P1.95 million in kickbacks from alleged ghost projects. He pleaded not guilty to the charges on Sept. 6.
An ally of former President Benigno Aquino III in the Liberal Party, Biazon resigned his post as customs commissioner when the controversy erupted in 2013.
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