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Customs chief, 33 others face raps on `pork’ misuse

/ 12:14 PM November 29, 2013

Justice Secretary Leila De Lima speaks to media on the filing of charges against Customs chief Ruffy Biazon and seven other former lawmakers over the alleged misuse of the ‘pork’ barrel fund. Video by Bong Lozada/INQUIRER.net

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MANILA, Philippines—The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Friday filed with the Office of the Ombudsman criminal complaint against Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon, seven other former lawmakers and 26 others for alleged misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

Biazon is the first ally of President Aquino to be included in the complaint on pork misuse.

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“This is proof that political affiliation is not a criterion,” Justice Secretary Leila De Lima said on Friday.

Aside from Biazon facing complaints for corruption and malversation and direct bribery are former Ilocos Sur 1st District Rep. Salacnib Baterina, former 1st District of Davao Del Sur Rep. Douglas Cagas and Marc Douglas Cagas IV, former Davao del Norte 1st District Rep. Arrel Olano, former South Cotabato 2nd District Rep. Arthur Pingoy Jr., former 1st District of Oriental Mindoro Rodolfo Valencia, and former 2nd District of Pampanga Representative Zenaida Cruz-Ducut, now chairperson  of the Energy Regulatory Commission.

Cruz-Ducut was included in the complaint for acting as representative of Congressmen Baterina, Biazon, Cagas, Cagas IV and Pingoy.

Others included in the complaint were Celia Cuasay, representative of Valencia, Alan Javellana, former President of the National Agribusiness Corp. (NABCOR), Antonio Ortiz, former Director General, Technology Resource Center (TRC), Dennis Cunanan, former Deputy Director General (now Director General) of TRC, NABCOR employees Victor Cacal, Romulo Relevo, Ma. Ninez Guanizo, Ma. Julie Villaralvo-Johnson  and Rhodora Mendoza. Other TRC employees implicated were Francisco Figura and Marivic Jover.

De Lima said there was no plunder case this time because the amount that allegedly went to the people named in the case did not reach the threshold of P50 million, which is one of the requirements for plunder.

Investigation made by the NBI showed that Baterina received a P7.5 million kickback from his P9.60 million Special Allotment Release Order (SARO); Biazon received P1.95 million kickbacks out of P2.70 million SARO; Douglas Cagas received P9.30 million kickbacks from P15.36 million SARO; Marc Douglas Cagas received P5.54 million kickback from P7.55 million SARO; Olano received P3.175 million from his P9.97 million SARO; Pingoy Jr. got P7.055 million kickbacks from P20.91 million SARO and Valencia received P2.40 million kickback from P6.51 million SARO.

Again, Janet Lim-Napoles was included in the complaint as well as her two non-government organization presidents Mylene Encarnacion of the Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic and Development Foundation Inc. (CARED) and Evelyn de Leon of the Philippine Social Development Foundation Inc. (PSDFI).

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The NBI also included in the complaints NABCOR resident auditors Annie Recabo, Rebecca Aquino, Bella Tesorero, Susan Guardian, Elizabeth Savella, Merle Valentin, Diana Casado, Aida Villania, Laarni Lyn Torres, Herminia SD. Aquino, Jerry Calayan and Sylvia Montes.

Based on testimonies of whistle-blowers Benhur Luy, Merlina Suñas, Gertrudes Luy, Nova Kay Batal-Macalintal, Elena Abundo and Avelina Lingo, the scheme starts with an agreement between the lawmaker and Napoles that her NGO will be used as conduit for his PDAF fund.

In exchange, Napoles will provide the lawmaker his agreed percentage or share as kickbacks. Then, the lawmaker submits list of projects to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM). The DBM in turn issues a SARO to the lawmaker who then endorses the NGO to the implementing agency.

The implementing agency, in turn, without public bidding, enters into a memorandum of agreement with the NGO for the implementation of the project. Once documentation is completed, a notice of cash allocation is issued to the implementing agency, in this case the NABCOR and TRC. Upon receipt of the NCA, the implementing agency issues a check to the NGO who in turn deposits and delivers it to Napoles. Kickbacks of a lawmaker is paid in advance, according to testimonies by the whistle-blowers.

The complaint stated the representative of the lawmaker who facilitates documents and follow ups with agencies for the lawmaker and Napoles also gets 1-5 percent of the project cost and 10 percent to the head of the implementing agency.

“In order to accomplish all this, the lawmakers took advantage and abused their official position and authority as Congressmen of the Republic, thereby unjustly enriching themselves at the expense and to the damage and prejudice of the people and the Republic,” the complaint stated.

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TAGS: Department of Justice, NBI, News, Plunder, pork barrel scam, Senate
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