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Biazon mum on calls for resignation

MANILA, Philippines - Customs Commissioner Rufino Biazon yesterday made no comment on calls for him to go on leave or resign from his post pending preliminary investigation by the Ombudsman on the charges of graft and corruption over the misuse of his pork barrel funds during his term as representative of Muntinlupa City.

Biazon said he would first discuss the matter with President Aquino before issuing further statements.

Biazon earlier vowed to face the allegations and denied the charges, saying he had exercised “prudence and fidelity” in implementing projects for his district from 2001 to 2010.

Biazon, however, lamented that “in some instances, the processes involved have been vulnerable to abuse by certain parties.”

Malacañang has reportedly said President Aquino still has trust and confidence in Biazon.

Press Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said it is up to Biazon if he wants to stay or leave while the probe is ongoing.

“There’s no legal compulsion for him to go on leave, under the law, it is entirely up to him. We welcome his statement that he is prepared to face the charges filed against him,” he said.

Coloma, however, clarified he still has no idea whether Aquino’s supposed meeting with Biazon took place. Coloma begged off from issuing any statement with regard to Biazon.

Coloma added Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima had nothing to do with the graft charges filed against Biazon, his subordinate.

“There is no truth to that,” Coloma said, downplaying reports that Purisima wanted the former Muntinlupa congressman eased out so he can have full control of the Bureau of Customs.

Biazon is among the 34 individuals in the second batch of respondents in the cases of malversation, direct bribery and graft filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) for the alleged misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

Coloma stated Biazon still enjoys the trust and confidence of the President, which was why he thumbed down his resignation offer last July.

But with the latest development where the DOJ filed graft charges against Biazon before the Office of the Ombudsman, “this is a new context that is not related to previous issues, and this is a new element.”

“And according to the President, he will talk to Commissioner Biazon regarding this issue,” Coloma said.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, on the other hand, stressed politics played no role in the government’s investigation into the pork barrel scam.

De Lima stressed the filing of criminal charges against administration allies in the second batch of cases against the misuse of the PDAF of lawmakers last Friday was clear proof of this.

“As what has been shown, political affiliation is never a criterion in our running after lawmakers involved in the so-called PDAF scam,” she said.

De Lima explained the charges filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) before the Office of the Ombudsman were all based on the sworn statements of whistleblowers and documentary evidence gathered.

“In fact, we only knew the list of respondents and their affiliations later on after the NBI submitted the report with complete evidence,” De Lima revealed.

She believes the inclusion of Biazon in the new charges of malversation, direct bribery and graft and corrupt practices should rebut the claim of the three senators charged with plunder in the first batch of “selective prosecution” in the PDAF probe.

Biazon was said to have gotten P1.95 million kickback for allegedly choosing the fictitious non-government organizations (NGOs) set up by businesswoman Janet Napoles as recipients of his PDAF in 2007.

He is among the seven former lawmakers in the second batch. The others were Salacnib Baterina of Ilocos Sur (P7.5 million), Douglas Cagas of Davao del Sur (P9.3 million), Marc Douglas Cagas IV (P5.54 million), Arrel Olaño of Davao del Norte (P3.175 million), Rodolfo Valencia of Oriental Mindoro (P2.41 million), and Arthur Pingoy of South Cotabato (P7.055 million).

De Lima added the government is also planning to issue a lookout bulletin order and once again ask the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to cancel the passports of the respondents in the second batch.

The DOJ urged the DFA to cancel the passports of the respondents in the first batch of PDAF case that included Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr.

De Lima also admitted there was delay in filing of the second batch of charges and attributed it to the initial task of NBI to look also for other cases outside the 2007 to 2009 period.

“But the team is having difficulty in finding the needed documents involving the periods outside 2007 to 2009,” she said.

De Lima also said there were supposed to be 11 former congressmen to be charged in the second batch, but four of them have already died and therefore could no longer be held liable.

Apart from the seven former lawmakers, 27 others were included in the latest charge sheet. (From