Ex-DA exec convicted over 2004 fertilizer scam
MANILA, Philippines — A former executive of the Department of Agriculture (DA) has been convicted of graft in connection with the fertilizer scam of 2004 after the Sandiganbayan ruled that he gave “unwarranted preferences” to a nongovernmental organization (NGO) in the implementation of a Farm Inputs-Farm Implements Program (Fifip) that year.
The antigraft court’s Seventh Division, in its 56-page decision dated Dec. 2, said Oscar Pawaran, a former DA regional executive director of Zamboanga Peninsula, and his chief accountant Ma. Perlice Socorro Julian enlisted NGO Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc. (MAMFI) as a project partner without holding public bidding.
The regional DA office entered into a P5-million contract with Mamfi for the supply of 300 ml bottles of liquid fertilizers at P800 each for a total of 6,250 bottles in the first district of Zamboanga del Sur.
State prosecutors said the agreement caused “undue injury” to the government in the amount of P3.8 million, as the bottles delivered by Mamfi were supposed to be priced at P190 each.
MAMFI was linked to convicted plunderer Janet Lim-Napoles, who is doing time after she was sentenced in 2018 in connection with the pork barrel scam five years earlier. She was also convicted of graft and malversation in 2021.
Despite the prosecution’s failure to prove the overpricing of the fertilizers, the Sandiganbayan said graft was still committed with the granting of “unwarranted benefit, advantage or preference” to a private contractor.
“In this case, Parawan and Julian gave Mamfi unwarranted preference when they awarded to the latter the implementation of the project without the requisite public bidding under Republic Act No. 9184 (Government Procurement Act) and released the funds without proper accreditation [by the Commission on Audit],” read the decision written by Associate Justice Zaldy Trespeses.
Associate Justices Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta, who heads the Seventh Division, and Georgina Hidalgo unanimously concurred with that ruling.
“There is no cogent reason why the implementation of the Fifip in the first district of Zamboanga del Sur did not undergo public bidding,” the decision said. “As already discussed, accused resorted to a negotiated procurement without any showing that the circumstances allow for such.”
Parawan and Julian were each sentenced six to eight years in prison and were banned for life from holding public office.
Parawan was already convicted two years earlier of graft and malversation in connection with the irregular procurement of agricultural supplies amounting to P3.25 million.
The fertilizer fund scam was among several scandals that hounded the nine-year rule of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.