Ex-Sorsogon gov convicted of graft over fertilizer fund scam
Former Sorsogon governor Raul Lee was sentenced to six to ten years imprisonment for each count of his graft conviction for his involvement in the P728-million fertilizer fund scam.
The Sandiganbayan First Division on Friday promulgated its decision that convicted Lee of four counts of graft for the purchase of overpriced fertilizers worth P3.2 million.
He was convicted for the 2004 overpriced purchase of 133 liters of Bio Nature Liquid Fertilizer at P1,500 per liter from supplier Fenshan Philippines, Inc. for a total cost of P199,500, even though the cost in the market per liter was P180 for a total of only P23,940.
His conviction also stemmed from the 2004 purchase of 2,000 liters of fertilizers at P1,500 each for a total of P3 million, even when the market price was P180 per liter or a total of P360,000.
Lee is convicted of two counts of violating Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for giving undue benefit to Feshan Philippines without public bidding and causing injury to government, as well as two counts for violating Section 3(g) for entering into a contract disadvantageous to the government.
Each graft conviction carries a penalty of six years and one month imprisonment as minimum, and ten years as maximum.
The court ordered Lee to pay the government the total damages of P2,591,595.
The court also convicted the provincial chief accountant Raul Hernandez, who is said to have died. The court is awaiting the notice of his death. The death of a convicted official extinguishes the criminal case.
The court, however, acquitted provincial chief accountant Ofelia Velasco from graft on the ground of reasonable doubt.
The court said the prosecution was able to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt to hold Lee and Hernandez accountable for the disadvantageous contracts.
“The Court saw no justification why the province dispensed with public bidding and instead directly procured the fertilizers from Feshan Philippines Inc. when the same products were available in the market at the lowest price at P285 per liter. There were likewise suitable substitutes at the most minimal price of P20 per six liters,” the court said in its decision.
“Viewing these prices side by side, the P1,500 per liter paid by the Province of Sorsogon for the Bio Nature Fertilizer obviously reveals that the contract entered into by the province was manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to government,” the court added.
The decision was penned by Division chairperson Associate Justice Efren Dela Cruz and concurred by Associate Justices Geraldine Econg and Bernelito Fernandez.
Lee is among the first officials to be charged and later convicted for their involvement in the P728-million fertilizer fund scam during the Arroyo administration.
Lee’s funds for liquid fertilizers were sourced from the P728-million “Ginintuang Masaganang Ani Program” of the Department of Agriculture under the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo meant to provide poor farmers with fertilizer, irrigation, seeds, education and training, loans, as well as dryers and post-harvest facilities.
The P728-million fertilizer funds were said to have been diverted to Arroyo’s campaign kitty to pay off favored local officials. The funds were released three months before the 2004 elections. Arroyo was cleared by the Ombudsman over the alleged scam. IDL