24 February 2015

'Fertlizer Scam' Case Moves Forward

The axe of justice is slow, but it is still there nevertheless. It is frustrating for some to see many affluent personalities, including politicians, get favorable treatment from the law, but under President Benigno Aquino III, the wheels are turning against the corrupt persons in authority.

This is what was evident after Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales ordered the filing of graft charges against former Lopez Jaena, Misamis Occidental mayor Zenaida Azcuna and six others in connection with their supposed involvement in the alleged PhP 1-million fertilizer fund scam in 2005.

In a press statement issued last 9 February 2015, the Office of the Ombudsman said aside from Azcuna, Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) members Marietes Bonalos, Aurora Alon, Marcial Lamoste, Homer Lariba and Alicia Penales, and Malayan Pacific Trading Corporation (MPTC) supplier Alberto Aquino violated Section 3 (e) and 3 (g) of Republic Act No. 3019.

Section 3 (e) involves, "causing any undue injury to any party, including the government, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence."

On the other hand, Section 3 (g) refers to "entering, on behalf of the Government, into any contract or transaction manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the same, whether or not the public officer profited or will profit thereby."

The Ombudsman said records showed that in January 2005, the municipality received P1 million from the Department of Agriculture - Region 10 for the purchase of inorganic liquid fertilizer.

However, it said based on the audit conducted by the Commission on Audit - Region 10, local officials committed several violations of the the RA 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

The Ombudsman said among the violations were:
  • reference to specific brand names,
  • lack of public bidding and resorting to direct contracting without complying with the requirements of the procurement law,
  • delivery of the products prior to the award,
  • overpricing by as much as P1,375/ per litter, and
  • lack of warranties by the supplier.
It noted that "the BAC had ample time to do all what was needed to protect the interest of the LGU, as the procurement was not urgent in nature" yet "it did not examine the product of MPTC through an independent and reliable chemist to verify the certification of MPTC."

Meanwhile, the complaint against Municipal Accountant Juren Magamay was dismissed for insufficiency of evidence.