Fertilizer fund scam case vs Cebu mayor rolls forward

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    THE Sandiganbayan Sixth Division has thrown out the most recent bid of incumbent Poro, Cebu municipal mayor Edgar Rama and Sangguniang Bayan members Gorgonita Gonzales, Sergio Zurita, Nilo Gorgonio, and William Surbano to have graft and malversation charges against them dismissed.

    In a six-page resolution promulgated last February 17, the anti-graft court denied the defense motion for reconsideration wherein the accused insisted that the July 28, 2020 decision of the Supreme Court ordering the dropping of charges against private defendants Nancy Perez (now Cotabato Gov. Nancy Catamco) and her estranged husband Pompey Perez should also apply to them.

    The ruling penned by Associate Justice Sarah Jane T. Fernandez and concurred in by Associate Justices Karl B. Miranda and Kevin Narce B. Vivero stressed that only the Perezes were covered by the SC order directing dismissal of the graft and malversation charges for violation of their right to speedy disposition of cases.

    Rama and the Sangguniang Bayan members 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.

    The Perez who represented the supplier, Perzebros Company, were named private defendants.

    Prosecutors said the procurement did not undergo public bidding and Perzebros was not qualified to undertake the supply contract because at the time of the singing, it was barely two months old.

    The defendant pubic officials claimed since that they are in the same legal footing as the Perezes, they should enjoy the same relief accorded their co-defendants.

    The court however, noted that in the July 1, 2019 ruling of the SC, Rama’s challenge to the validity of the charges had already been torn down with the denial of his petition for certiorari.

    “This court was not called upon to determine if accused Rama et. al.’s constitutional right to speedy disposition of cases has been violated. The matter had been finally settled in the Supreme Court Third Division’s Resolution …dismissing accused Rama et. al’s petition for certiorari,” the court added.