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Sandiganbayan clears Ruffy Biazon of direct bribery raps in pork barrel scam

The Sandiganbayan has cleared former congressman and current Muntinlupa City Mayor Ruffy Biazon of direct bribery charges in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel scam due to lack of evidence. 

This developed after the anti-graft court granted Biazon’s plea to dismiss the case due to weak prosecution evidence, and the defense not contesting the same because the prosecution failed to prove that then-Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) chairperson Zenaida Ducut, by “apparent authority,” served as Biazon’s agent for receiving commissions off transactions with a non-government entity run by Janet Lim Napoles.

Likewise, the Sandiganbayan said that the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) records presented by the prosecution did not show that Biazon received kickbacks from his discretionary or pork barrel fund. 

“The prosecution’s reliance on the doctrine of apparent authority is misplaced. To begin with, the doctrine of apparent authority is applied in transactions involving a corporation, its corporate agent and a third person dealing with the latter. Considering that Ducut was not proven to be Biazon’s agent, [Benhur] Luy’s testimony that he personally handed to Ducut the supposed commission allegedly intended for Biazon (as well as his recording thereof in the JLN  Cash/Check Daily Disbursement Report) does not necessarily imply that Biazon agreed to the arrangement or received the said commission,” the Sandiganbayan said.  

“In addition, the Anti-Money Laundering Council Bank Inquiry Report (File/Ref No. AMLC-CIG-16-1230) dated 19 October 2016, which was issued after accessing and analyzing voluminous documents and bank records, including the documents and testimonies provided by whistleblowers related to this case, concluded in page 16 thereof that: As for Biazon, no bank record was found to convincingly support the alleged transfer of the illegally tainted PDAF funds in his favor,” the Sandiganbayan added. 

The anti-graft court added that while AMLC’s lawyer Vhon Leigh Santos said there were numerous "covered and suspicious" transaction reports involving Biazon, none of the covered transaction reports exactly matched the amount and the time that Biazon allegedly received the commission based on the testimony of the whistleblowers and Luy’s ledger.

"They did not find any bank record, deposit slip fund transfer or check deposit of that amount allegedly received by Biazon and placed in his bank account or in any account of his family,” the Sandiganbayan said. 

While the court conceded that the Bank Inquiry Report only delved into bank transactions and did not cover any other possible manner by which the alleged kickback/commission (gift or present) could have supposedly been transmitted by Ducut to Biazon, it said the prosecution should have supported its contention that the money given by businesswoman Napoles  to Biazon through Ducut was in cash by proving to the court Biazon’s alleged receipt of the commission from Ducut. 

“In the present case, we find that the quantum of evidence necessary to secure the conviction of accused Biazon at this juncture of the proceedings was not met because the prosecution was unable to satisfactorily discharge  the burden of proving the existence of the second element of the offense: that the offender received directly or through another, some gift or present,” the Sandiganbayan said.

"Hence, the court is duty-bound to uphold the presumption of innocence enshrined in no less than the 1987 Constitution. Given that every reasonable doubt of his guilt entitles an accused to an acquittal, the court is compelled to grant accused Blazon’s Demurrer to Evidence in the case for direct bribery,” it added.

The prosecution is accusing Biazon of collecting P1.95 million in commissions off his discretionary fund made possible by transactions with Napoles’ bogus foundation the Philippine Social Foundation Inc. — BM, GMA Integrated News