WHAT WENT BEFORE: Fertilizer Fund Scam
Ophelia Agawin was among the officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA) charged with graft in July 2004 for the alleged juggling of funds and overpricing in the purchase of P432-million worth of fertilizers.
Agawin was then DA chief accountant when the complaint was filed in the Office of the Ombudsman by Marlene Garcia-Esperat, then the DA’s resident Ombudsman in Central Mindanao.
The accused included incoming Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, Undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante and seven other officials.
In her four-page complaint, Esperat said the accused allegedly colluded in the purchase of P432 million worth of fertilizers from Philphos, a reported “favored” supplier, for the May to October 2003 rice planting season.
She said funds from the National Food Authority were used to buy the fertilizers when DA funds should have been used for such purchases, calling it a “clear case of juggling of funds,” amounting to “technical malversation.”
Esperat also alleged that fertilizers were overpriced, noting that the price of fertilizer was only P400 per bag before the P432 million procurement, but this shot up to P500 per bag.
Esperat later left the government service and became a crusading journalist in Central Mindanao’s Midland Review.
On March 24, 2005, Maundy Thursday, gunmen barged into Esperat’s home in Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat and shot her dead while she was having dinner with her daughters.
Estanislao Bismanos (alias Jun Brown), Gerry Cabayag and Randy Grecia confessed to the murder and were sentenced to life imprisonment. They said they had been hired to kill Esperat because of her exposés.
The case against the alleged masterminds of the killing—Osmeña Montaner, DA finance officer for Central Mindanao, and Estrella Sabay, his chief accountant—has yet to conclude.
In September 2008, the Office of the Ombudsman dismissed for insufficiency of evidence the graft case filed by Esperat, clearing Bolante, Yap, Agawin and their coaccused.
In February 2012, President Aquino swore Agawin into office as acting assistant agriculture secretary. Lawrence de Guzman, Inquirer Research
Source: Inquirer Archives
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