PHILIPPINES - Two high-ranking Aquino administration officials are in the second batch of 34 individuals that the National Bureau of Investigation has recommended for prosecution for alleged involvement in the P10-billion (SS$27.6 million) pork barrel scam allegedly masterminded by detained businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
Customs Commissioner Rozzano Rufino Biazon and Zenaida Cruz-Ducut, the chair of the Energy Regulatory Commission, were among those charged on Friday in the Office of the Ombudsman, along with Napoles and 26 others, including several former members of the House of Representatives.
Biazon is the first close ally of President Aquino to be dragged into the still continuing investigation into the theft between 2007 and 2009 of P10 billion worth of congressional pork barrel, officially known as the Priority Development Assistance Fund, which state investigators allege found their way back into senators' and congressmen's pockets through an elaborate kickback scheme allegedly orchestrated by Napoles involving bogus nongovernment organisations and ghost projects.
Biazon is a former congressman who represented the lone district of Muntinlupa City from 2001 to 2010. He is the son of former Sen. Rodolfo Biazon Jr., the incumbent Muntinlupa congressman.
The customs chief on Friday said that while he has yet to see the documents on the complaint against him, he was willing and ready to face the charges.
The other former congressmen included in the complaint were Salacnib Baterina, first district, Ilocos Sur; Arrel Olano, first district, Davao del Sur; Arthur Pingoy Jr, second district, South Cotabato; Rodolfo Valencia, first district, Oriental Mindoro; and Douglas Cagas and his son Marc Douglas IV, both from the first district of Davao del Sur.
They were charged with malversation, direct bribery, graft and corrupt practices.
Conspicuous by their absence in the second batch of pork respondents were another close Aquino ally Joel Villanueva, head of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) and former party-list representative for the Citizens Battle against Crime and Corruption; Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez; and Manila Rep. Amado Bagatsing.