5 agriculture officials linked to Estrada’s pork dismissed
MANILA, Philippines–The axe has fallen on five officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA) in Western Visayas who were found guilty of an administrative charge in relation to the alleged misuse of P20.5 million of the pork barrel of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada.
The Office of the Ombudsman approved the dismissal from the service of Larry Nacionales, Candelaria Martinez, Mira Talabong, Mae Nones and Roger Salcedo of DA Regional Field Unit VI after they were found guilty of gross misconduct.
In addition, the Ombudsman ordered their retirement benefits forfeited and barred them from ever holding public office.
In a statement, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said the agriculture officials committed “gross inexcusable negligence” when they signed documents pertaining to the “Diversified Farm Assistance for Negros Occidental Agri-Producers” project funded by Estrada’s Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel in 2007.
Morales said the sacked DA personnel “very well knew they should have conducted periodic monitoring and evaluation on the project” which was implemented by the JCB Foundation.
“Under the law, a public officer is guilty of gross misconduct if it is proved that he committed a transgression of some established and definite rule of action, more particularly an unlawful behavior or gross negligence,” Morales said.
“There is gross inexcusable negligence when they merely signed the certifications, accomplishment reports and delivery vouchers as well as recorded the transactions,” she added.
Records showed that Estrada, who is under detention at the national police headquarters in Camp Crame as he is facing plunder charges in connection with his alleged role in the P10-billion pork barrel scam, wrote Nacionales, then the head of DA’s regional field office, in December 2007 naming JCB as the “implementor” of agricultural projects funded by his PDAF.
Among the projects supposedly financed by Estrada’s pork barrel was the procurement of 28 hand tractors, 28 rice threshers, 56 power sprayers and 5,000 bottles of Nobac urban organic enzyme and microbial decomposition activator.
In its audit of the project, the Commission on Audit discovered that the certifications of delivery for the equipment were spurious and there was nondelivery of farm inputs and implements.
The COA also found out that the bidding had been rigged and the equipment and products were grossly overpriced by 74 percent, or about P14.2 million.
Without factual, legal basis
It said the delivery charges amounting to P1 million “were without factual and legal basis.”
“(T)he actual recipients of the liquid fertilizer could not be determined because the master list bearing the farmers’ signatures did not indicate the quantities they received. It was also discovered that the supplier of the agricultural equipment and JCB Foundation had the same address,” the Ombudsman said.
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