Catanduanes execs axed over scam
Citing the need to punish erring public officials to keep the people’s faith in government, the Court of Appeals (CA) has upheld the dismissal and suspension of seven Catanduanes provincial officials in the procurement of overpriced fertilizer from an unlicensed merchant using allocations from the controversial P728-million fertilizer fund in 2004.
In a 13-page ruling, the appellate court’s 13th Division upheld the Office of the Ombudsman’s 2011 decision dismissing four provincial officials and suspending three others for purchasing P1.75 million worth of liquid fertilizer at P1,500 per bottle, a price padded by over 300 percent, according to a Commission on Audit report.
The CA also noted how the fertilizer, supposedly for the improvement of farm yields in Catanduanes, was procured without a public bidding from Greens International Enterprises, a firm that at the time had no license to operate.
“Public office is a public trust. All government officials and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice and lead modest lives,” read the April 17 ruling released this week.
The ruling upheld the dismissal of then Catanduanes provincial engineer Rodolfo Maliñana, budget chief Ireneo del Rosario, Provincial General Services Office administrative officer IV Roger Pitajen and provincial agriculturist Herbert Evangelista Sr.
The CA upheld the three-month suspension of provincial treasurer Julietta Tasarra, Accountant II Abelardo Abundo Jr. and Hilda Arcilla for simple neglect of duty.
The amount used for the purchase was part of a P5-million allocation downloaded from the total fertilizer fund on authority of former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante.
Bolante was accused of diverting the multimillion-peso fund to Arroyo’s 2004 presidential campaign.
Last year, the Ombudsman cleared Arroyo of liability in the scam. Meanwhile, the Sandiganbayan directed the Ombudsman to file additional evidence to bolster its allegations of plunder against Bolante, having found no probable cause to prosecute the former official.
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