Jail term for ex-gov over fertilizer scam
The Sandiganbayan on Friday convicted former Sorsogon Gov. Raul Lee of graft and meted him with six- to 10-year prison terms for each of the four counts lodged against him in connection with the purchase of overpriced fertilizers in 2004.
The Sandiganbayan’s First Division found Lee and former provincial accountant Raul Hernandez guilty of two counts each of violation of Section 3 (e) and Section 3 (g) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act by purchasing fertilizers at “unconscionable” prices.
They were also perpetually disqualified from holding public office.
But the antigraft court acquitted former provincial treasurer Ofelia Velasco of all charges on the ground of reasonable doubt, and lifted the hold departure order against her.
The Inquirer tried but failed to reach Lee for comment on Friday. But his son, Sorsogon Gov. Robert Lee-Rodrigueza, said the family respected the decision of the Sandiganbayan.
“Considering that the said case is not yet final and executory, for there are remedies available for the defendants, I deem it proper not to discuss the merits of the case in line with the sub judice rule … At the end of the day, the rule of law should be upheld and I greatly respect the same,” Lee-Rodrigueza said in a statement.
In the 33-page decision penned by Associate Justice Efren de la Cruz, the court also ordered Lee and Hernandez to jointly pay the Sorsogon provincial government P2.59 million in damages.
The three officials had been accused of causing undue injury to the government by approving the purchase of 2,133 liters of Bio Nature Liquid Fertilizer for P1,500 per liter from supplier Feshan Philippines Inc. The court, however, said the market price of the fertilizer at that time was only P180 per liter.
“It was all accused Lee’s hand from the procurement to the payment of the subject fertilizers. On the other hand, accused Hernandez … aided accused Lee in the release of the funds from the province of Sorsogon’s treasury to Feshan Phils. Inc.,” the decision read.
The court said the accused failed to justify the direct purchase of fertilizers from the supplier at an “unconscionable price of more than 500 percent of the same product, or at least 900 percent more of the suitable substitutes.”
Velasco, however, could not be blamed for certifying availability of cash for the fertilizers, “because, indeed, there was an available allocation for the expense,” the court said. —WITH A REPORT FROM MICHAEL B. JAUCIAN
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