Ex-Catanduanes gov fails to stop fertilizer fund graft case

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    THE Sandiganbayan has junked separate motions for reconsideration filed by former Catanduanes governor Leandro Verceles and seven of his-co-accused insisting on a chance to seek outright dismissal of a graft case over the P723 million fertilizer fund scam of 2004.

    In a five-page resolution issued last November 8, the Second Division reiterated its previous pronouncement that the prosecution has presented evidence that, unless properly rebutted by the defense, “appear to be prima facie sufficient to support a finding of guilt beyond reasonable doubt.”
    “A cursory look at the records shows that the evidence presented by the prosecution suggests that no public bidding was conducted. The other matters presented by the accused-movants are matters of defense that should be raised for consideration during the trial and requires presentation of evidence,” the anti-graft court declared.
    Associate Justice Lorifel Lacap Pahimna penned the resolution with Associate Justices Oscar C. Herrera Jr. and Michael Frederick L. Musngi concurring.
    The defendants were accused of anomalous procurement of farm inputs using funds intended to help local farmers under the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani Program through the Farm Inputs/Farm Implements Program (FIFIP).

    Verceles’ co-accused included provincial treasurer Julietta M. Tassara, asst. provincial assessor Abelardo Abundo Jr., provincial budget officer Ireneo C. Del Rosario, provincial engineers’ office department head Rodolfo Maliñana, administrative officer Roger Pitajen, agriculturist Herbert DLS Evangelista Sr., engineer Hilda V. Arcilla, and private respondents Ricardo T. Mendoza and Ma. Lourdes T. Mendoza.

    Based on the information filed in 2011, the Ombudsman said the purchase of P5 million worth of Macro-Micro Liquid Fertilizer favored Green’s International Enterprises because the procurement documents specified the brand and chemical composition of the fertilizer required and even indicated the exact price per bottle as offered by the supplier contractor.

    Graft investigators also said the purchases were overpriced and the transaction did not go through the required public bidding in violation of RA 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Law.

    In their appeals, the defendants claimed there was enough proof showing that a public bidding was conducted participated in by Feshan Bio Nature and Green’s International Enterprises.

    They also argued that the purchase request that mentioned “macro micro liquid fertilizer” is not part of what are considered procurement documents since it was not prepared by the Bids and Awards Committee.

    Accused public officials also insisted that the reference to a brand name was merely intended to be “descriptive and not restrictive” as supported by the fact that the BAC disregarded the same reference while conducting its own evaluation and review of suitable fertilizers.

    The Court said it is not sufficiently swayed to reconsider its previous ruling.

    “The allegatons raised by the accused are mere reiteration of the grounds they previously relied upon which the Court had already considered. The instant motions failed to raise substantial matters which would justify the desired course of action,” the Sandiganbayan said.