Sandigan convicts ex-Butuan mayor over 2004 fertilizer scam
MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan Third Division has convicted former Butuan City Mayor Leonidas Plaza of two counts of graft in connection to the 2004 fertilizer fund scam.
The anti-graft court, in its 73-page decision on Nov. 29, ruled that Plaza and the city’s seven other local officials were guilty of violating sections 3(e) and 3(g) of the Anti-graft and Corrupt Practices Act over the purchase of 3,333 bottles of liquid fertilizers from Feshan Philippines, Inc. at P1,500 each – overpriced by around 1,000 percent.
The Office of the Ombudsman and the Commission on Audit had found that fertilizers of the same quality cost only between P120 to P125 per liter.
“All the accused exhibited manifest partiality and gross inexcusable negligence in continuing with the procurement process which was highly irregular and outright illegal,” according to the decision penned by Associate Justice Ronald Moreno.
The apparent red flags in the procurement, according to the court, were the lack of public bidding, as well as the mention of a specific brand name in the product quotations.
The Sandiganbayan noted that Plaza either ignored procedures in the Government Procurement Reform Act, reviewed supporting documents haphazardly or simply signed because other city officials signed before her.
There was also conspiracy between the accused and the representative of Feshan, Lucio Lapidez, as the procurement process was railroaded for the benefit of the company and to the damage and prejudice of Butuan City, the court said.
Penalties of six to 10 years imprisonment and perpetual disqualification from holding public office were handed down against the eight defendants, including Plaza. The former mayor was also compelled to pay P4.5 million to the Butuan City government.
Court documents identified the seven other local officials as Salvador Satorre, Adulfo Llagas, Arthur Castro, Rodolfo Evanoso, Bebiano Calo, Danilo Furia, and Melita Galbo. They were convicted of one count of graft.
Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Justice Bernelito Fernandez concurred to the decision.
Edited by KGA
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