7 ex-village officials in Cebu City face trial over ‘pork scam’
The Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas found sufficient evidence to file anti-graft charges in court against former Guadalupe barangay captain Eugenio “Jingjing” Faelnar, then barangay councilors Ruben Baculi, David Suzara, Alex Semilla, Robert Gabutan, and Rodrigo Gabutan, as well as former Sangguniang Kabataan representative Jacqueline Du-imboy.
They all posted P30,000 bail for each case shortly after Judge Estela Alma Singco of the Regional Trial Court Branch 12 issued arrest warrants against them in October.
Faelnar, Suzara, Semilla, and the two Gabutans were charged with three counts of violating Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, particularly on “giving unwarranted benefits and advantage” to WM Sprout Center and Win Marketing.
Du-imboy was charged with two counts of graft while Baculi was indicted for one case.
Graft investigation and prosecution officer Jerry Patcho said all the accused conspired in buying lanzones, mango, durian and rambutan seedlings worth P6.2 million as well as P245,000 worth of pipes and garden hoses in 2006 and 2007 without any actual competitive bidding—a blatant violation of the law.
The purchases were intended for a livelihood project funded using the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of former Representative Antonio Cuenco of Cebu City’s south district.
“Records of this case disclosed that the mandatory procurement stages or procedures were not complied with, thereby rendering respondents’ ‘public bidding’ a mere pretense,” Patcho said.
In the process, he said all seven accused unwarranted preference to WM Sprout Center and Win Marketing.
The anti-graft investigator also pointed out that the accused failed to publish the procurement in a newspaper or post it on the website of the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS) as mandated under the law.
“With these numerous red flags or badges of fraud, all that the respondents did was to claim good faith. They even issued a Certification claiming that they allegedly conducted the ‘public bidding; for the procurement of the seedlings,” Patcho said.
But he said the issuance of certification did not cure the illegality of the bidding.
“The certification is clearly self-serving. Respondents could not possible claim good faith when they have violated many compulsory provisions set by law,” Patcho said.
In fact, he said the accused did not disqualify WM Sprouts Center when it failed to submit post-qualification documents and post a performance security as the law mandates.
“Instead, they (accused) deliberately awarded the contract to WM Sprouts Center and turned blind eyes to these irregularities. Such is a blatant manifestation of partiality and bad faith on the part of the respondents, giving unwarranted benefits, preference, and advantage to the bidders,” Patcho said.
Former Congressman Cuenco expressed dismay over Faelnar’s failure to accomplish projects that were funded from his PDAF.
In an interview, he said he was surprised when he was informed about the misuse of his Priority Development Assistance Fund back in 2006.
“Someone told me that it was overpriced. I was also in a quandary as to why the seedlings were distributed to north district barangays when those seedlings were supposedly intended for the south district barangays only,” he said.
Cuenco said he requested the Department of Agriculture to conduct an investigation as to how his livelihood project was implemented.
Cuenco coursed his pork barrel funds from the Department of Budget and Management to the DA.
Faelnar, former president of the Association of Barangay Cuncil (ABC) in Cebu City, got over P6 million and disbursed it to WM Sprouts Center for the purchase of seedlings.
The Commission on Audit eventually found irregularities in the transaction.
“I don’t know who pocketed the money. It’s up to the Ombudsman to find out who,” Cuenco said.
Aside from the respondents, he said the suppliers should also be indicted for a possible conspiracy. “I’m not taking sides here. I won’t judge anyone. I’m in the side of justice. Let the truth come out so those with direct participation will be punished accordingly,” Cuenco said.
He said he’s making himself available in case he will be called by the court to shed light on the controversy.
“I’ll just have to tell the truth. The Ombudsman has spoken. Let the case proceed to find out if there is really proof beyond reasonable doubt against the respondents,” Cuenco said.
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