Lapid faces graft rap over overpriced fertilizers
Sen. Manuel “Lito” Lapid has been charged with graft before the Sandiganbayan over the purchase of allegedly overpriced foliar fertilizers when he was Pampanga governor.
Ombudsman prosecutors filed the graft charge against the outgoing senator for allegedly violating Section 3(e) and 3(g) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
State prosecutors said Lapid in 2004 purchased 3,880 liters of macro-micro foliar fertilizers which were overpriced by P4.268 million.
The transaction gave undue benefit to Malayan Pacific Trading Corp. (MPTC) and D.A. Vazquez Macro Micro Fertilizer Resources (DAVMMFR).
Prosecutors also noted badges of fraud in the procurement, such as the purchase of the fertilizers from MPTC without public bidding and the inordinate speed by which the transaction was consummated.
The Ombudsman said Lapid issued the purchase order or request on May 24, 2004, on the same day the fertilizers were delivered. The MPTC was also fully paid on May 26, 2004, or just 14 days after the price quotations were submitted by DAVMMFR on May 12.
Lapid, who certified that there were no more alternatives to the purchased fertilizers, unlawfully resorted to direct contracting despite the availability of a cheaper substitute, Ombudsman prosecutors said.
The purchase order for the foliar fertilizer also indicated a brand, in violation of the government procurement law.
The MPTC was paid P4.761 million, or P4.85 million less taxes. At P1,250 per liter, the foliar fertilizers were overpriced by at least P1,100 per liter or a total of P4.268 million.
Prosecutors said Lapid gave undue benefit to the suppliers to cause government injury worth the overprice amount.
Also charged with Lapid were provincial accountant Benjamin de Guzman Yuzon, provincial treasurer Vergel Baltazar Yabut, MPTC incorporators Ma. Victoria Aquino-Abubakar and Leolita Aquino, and DAVRRFM proprietor Dexter Alexander Vazquez.
The prosecutors also accused Vazquez of registering their product with the Fertilizer Pesticide Authority on Aug. 15, 2005, or after the May 2004 transaction with Lapid.
The prosecutors also said MPTC entered into the transaction without a certificate of license to operate and product registration.
Lapid’s funds for the foliar fertilizers were sourced from the P728-million Ginintuang Masaganang Ani Program of the Department of Agriculture under the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo meant to provide poor farmers with fertilizer, irrigation, seeds, education and training, loans, as well as dryers and post-harvest facilities.
The P728-million fertilizer funds were part of an alleged scam of diverting the funds to Arroyo’s campaign kitty to pay off favored local officials. The funds were released three months before the 2004 elections.
Arroyo, however, has been cleared by the Ombudsman over the alleged scam.
Under the antigraft law, Section 3(e) prohibits public officials from causing any undue injury to any party, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.
Meanwhile, Section 3(g) also considers a corrupt practice entering into any contract or transaction manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the government, whether or not the public officer stands to profit from the transaction.
Lapid, a known top absentee in the Senate during his six-year term, is seeking the mayoralty seat in Angeles City, Pampanga, in 2016. Meanwhile, his son Mark, head of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, is running for senator as a guest candidate for Liberal Party. Marc Jayson Cayabyab/RC
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