Prosecutors nix Reyes’ bid to junk fertilizer fund scam case
State prosecutors opposed a motion of former Palawan Governor Mario Joel Reyes for the dismissal of his fertilizer fund scam case for lack of probable cause.
In its comment opposition filed before the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division, the Office of the Special Prosecutor asked the court to throw out for lack of merit Reyes’ motion to dismiss for lack of probable cause the graft charge against him. Reyes also asked the court to defer the issuance of an arrest warrant.
The prosecution maintained that Reyes committed graft and caused injury to government when he failed to review the accreditation of the nongovernment organization Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation (Mamfi) which was not eligible to implement the fertilizer project.
Reyes, an ex-fugitive who surrendered to authorities while facing a murder trial for the killing of broadcaster Gerry Ortega, was charged with one count of graft for giving undue benefit to the bogus foundation Mamfi for the procurement of 3,240 bottles of liquid fertilizers without public bidding in 2004.
The prosecutors said Reyes did nothing to ensure the transaction would not be injurious to government.
“Not even once did accused-movant demand or follow-up from Mamfi the immediate fulfillment of its obligations under the memorandum of agreement; thereby he failed to exercise the option to terminate the agreement and to avail other legal remedies necessary to protect the interests of the government,” the prosecutors said.
The prosecutors also refuted Reyes’ claim that the memorandum of agreement (MOA) with Mamfi was not a contract for a business transaction that required prior authorization from the Sanggunian.
The prosecution said Reyes was not authorized to enter into a MOA with the Department of Agriculture in the absence of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan resolution authorizing him to do so.
The prosecutors said there was rampant graft and corruption because the project was delayed—the fertilizers were only delivered on Dec. 2005, or more than a year after the Department of Agriculture transferred the P3.25-million fund to Mamfi on May 2004.
“This flagrantly constitutes graft and corruption,” the prosecutors said.
The prosecutors also refuted Reyes’ claim that there was no conspiracy, noting that by endorsing Mamfi, “his participation to the over-all scheme was made apparent.”
The prosecution added that Reyes could not just claim that the delivery of the fertilizers was merely a grant of farm inputs in the form of donation from the national government.
“Further, accused-movant cannot claim that the Palawan was just the beneficiary of the contract for farm inputs. The duties and responsibilities of Palawan were even enumerated in the MOA,” the prosecution said.
Reyes in effect “turned a blind eye to his responsibilities,” the prosecutors said.
The prosecution urged the court to dismiss the motion, and discuss the merits of the case in a full-blown trial.
According to the graft information, Reyes released P3.25 million for the procurement to Mamfi even though the latter was not a qualified non-government organization (NGO) to implement the Farm Inputs and Farm Implements Program because it did not submit the complete documents of accreditation.
The prosecutors said Reyes caused undue injury to government by acting with manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence when it gave unwarranted benefits to Mamfi in the transaction.
Charged with Reyes was Mamfi president Marina Sula, who testified as a witness in the plunder and graft trial of former Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile, and former representatives implicated in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam allegedly masterminded by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
Sula is a property custodian of Napoles, who was accused of creating bogus foundations under the names of her employees.
The other co-accused in Reyes’ case are Regional Executive Director Dennis Araullo and Regional Technical Director Rodolfo Guieb, both from the Department of Agriculture-Regional Unit IV; and Nathaniel Tan, an authorized representative of Mamfi.
Reyes’ charges stemmed from the anomalous implementation of the 2004 Farm Inputs and Farm Implements Program during the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Reyes and his brother former Coron Mayor Mario Reyes turned fugitive when they fled the country in March 2012 after they were indicted by the Department of Justice for allegedly masterminding the murder of Ortega in 2011. The hitman named the Reyes brothers as the masterminds of the killing.
The brothers led a lavish lifestyle in Phuket, Thailand before they were arrested there on September 2015 for violation of immigration laws. They were eventually deported to Manila, where they were detained at Puerto Princesa city jail for the Ortega murder trial. RAM/rga
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