ROXAS, Isabela—The rice project, for which former Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca has been ordered arrested and charged with graft and malversation, helped make 10 Isabela towns the biggest rice producers in Cagayan Valley, Alicia Mayor Cecilia Claire Reyes said on Thursday.
Reyes, a former Isabela board member, said the P25-million agricultural loan program was initially released to farmers in Roxas, Gamu, Naguilian, Burgos, San Mariano, Benito Soliven, Mallig, Aurora, Quezon and San Manuel, to help increase their earnings.
The loan “went through [the Department of Budget and Management] and had passed [the Commission on Audit],” she added.
Padaca has been charged with graft and malversation of funds at the Sandiganbayan for awarding the project in 2006 without public bidding to the Economic Development for Western Isabela and Northern Luzon Foundation Inc. (EDWINLFI), which extends loans to rice farmers. The funds, government records showed, were used to improve rice production in 35 towns.
In a statement, the Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership, which Padaca founded, described the criminal charges brought against the former Isabela governor as part of her enemies’ strategy to keep her out of politics in the province.
“What happened to former Governor Padaca is another case of injustice in our country where the corrupt use all their power and influence to ensure that effective, ethical and empowering leaders are discouraged from practicing good governance and becoming more proactive in helping uplift the lives of every Filipino,” Kaya Natin said in its statement.
Among the signatories to the statement were Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, former Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio, presidential adviser Nereus Acosta and lawmakers Jorge Banal, Teddy Baguilat and Kaka Bag-ao.
The group also urged the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division to dismiss the charges against Padaca. The antigraft court earlier ordered Padaca’s arrest, and set her bail at P70,000.
In her statement, Padaca said the provincial board had authorized her to use the funds to support the provincial government’s hybrid rice program.
“Acting on the further authority given by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, [Padaca] entered into an agreement with a nongovernment organization (EDWINLFI), which voluntarily offered to share its technical, financial and managerial expertise to monitor the implementation of the hybrid rice program,” the statement added.
The agreement with EDWINLFI, Padaca said, was “ratified” by the provincial board.
“The lack of a public bidding was not a reason to conclude that there was injury to the government because the procurement law did not apply to the transaction,” she added.
Padaca had opposed the charges before the Office of the Ombudsman, but her motions for reconsideration were denied.
Senior Supt. Franklin Moises Mabanag, Isabela police director, said the police have not yet served the arrest warrant against Padaca and her coaccused Roxas Vice Mayor Servando Soriano, who was the foundation’s president; EDWINLFI manager Dionisio Pine; and the late Johnas Lamorena.
“[We] have not received any official documents so we cannot do anything,” Mabanag said.
First posted 12:42 am | Saturday, May 26th, 2012