Trader cleared in fertilizer fund raps

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    THE Sandiganbayan has acquitted a contractor-supplier of P1.95 million worth of liquid fertilizer after being named a co-defendant in a graft case against ranking officials of the Department of Agriculture led by former DA Region 1 regional director Renerio Belarmino Jr. and regional technical director Flora Gagni.

    Cleared of criminal liability was Junar Balisi, executive of BALS Enterprises which won the contract to deliver 1,300 bottles of Fil-Ocean liquid foliar fertilizer to the DA-Regional Field Unit 1 in April 2004.

    He was accused of having acted in conspiracy with accused public officials and that his firm was given preference as it cornered the deal through direct contracting without going through the required public bidding.

    The court held that evidence presented by the prosecution failed to establish how Balisi could have conspired with DA officials.

    Based on the defendant’s testimony, the court noted that the supplier had no involvement in the decision of the DA-RFU 1 as to the mode of procurement and who among the various suppliers available would get the contract.

    “It was the BAC (Bids and Awards Committee), with the approval of the regional executive director, that decided to resort to direct contracting and recommended BALS Enterprises as supplier for the liquid fertilizer,” the Sandiganbayan declared. “There is no evidence to prove that accused Balisi participated or conspired in securing the regional executive director’s approval.”

    Documentary exhibits were limited to showing that BALS Enterprises submitted a filled-out canvass form together with its bid proposal, the same as two other suppliers.

    Since there was a certification that the 1,300 bottles of liquid fertilizer were delivered and accepted in good condition, the court held that there can be no imputation of undue injury.

    “Considering that the prosecution was not able to overcome the presumption of innocence afforded to accused Balisi, accused cannot be convicted of the offense alleged,” the court added.

    However, the Sandiganbayan noted that Belarmino remains at large and the court has not acquired jurisdiction over his person even if the case was filed way back 2017.

    It then ordered the issuance of an alias warrant of arrest against the former DA regional director. An alias warrant is issued so that an arrest order remains in effect even if the case is archived.