Cebu execs not yet off the hook in fertilizer fund scam cases

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    THE Sandiganbayan has denied a motion filed by incumbent Poro, Cebu municipal Mayor Edgar G. Rama and four co-defendant local officials seeking dismissal of the corruption charges filed against them by the Office of the Ombudsman in 2018 in relation to the Fertilizer Fund scam.

    In its resolution dated January 21, 2021, the Sixth Division said the charges against the municipal officials are not covered by the July 28, 2020 ruling of the Supreme Court which ordered charges against their co-accused, Cotabato Gov. Nancy Catamco (formerly Nancy Perez), and her estranged husband, Pompey Perez, dismissed.

    The High court cited unreasonable delay in the proceedings at the Ombudsman which violated the right of Catamco and Perez to a speedy disposition of their cases.

    Rama, former vice mayor Ronald Carcellar and Sangguniang Bayan members Gorgonita Gonzales, Sergio Zurita, Nilo Gorgonio, Gregorio Dorog, and William Surbano were charged with one graft case and two counts of malversation of public funds in relation to the alleged anomalous procurement of P5 million worth of Vitacrop liquid organic fertilizer in 2004.

    When the transaction happened, Catamco was not yet a public official at the time and was going by the name “Nancy Perez.”

    She and Pompey Perez represented the supplier, Perzebros Company, hence they were named private defendants.

    Graft investigators said the procurement was contrary to law due to lack of public bidding while Perzebros should have been disqualified because when the contract was approved, the firm was barely two months old.

    In the motion to dismiss Rama was joined only by Surbano, Gonzales, Zurita, and Gorgonio.

    The defense claimed that since there was only one fact-finding investigation and preliminary investigation for all public and private respondents regarding the three cases, it follows that their right to speedy disposition of cases was likewise violated.

    The Sandiganbayan, however, declared otherwise, saying any doubt about the applicability of the SC ruling to the rest of the defendants has been put to rest with the clarification dated December 14, 2020 from Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta that only the cases against Nancy A. Catamco (formerly Nancy Perez) and Pompey Perez are to be dismissed.

    “There being no doubt that the Supreme Court’s directive in the Decision dated July 28, 2020 applies only to accused Catamco and Perez, accused Rama et. al.’s instant Omnibus Motion has no basis,” the court said.

    The defense was instructed to prepare for the start of their presentation of evidence on April 14 and 15, 2021.