Ex-Benguet town mayor indicted for graft
A former Benguet mayor and three others were indicted by the Ombudsman for graft over the fertilizer fund scam.
In a statement on Tuesday, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales approved the filing of graft charges against Bakun Mayor Bartolome Sacla Sr., Municipal Treasurer Manuel Bagayao, Municipal Accountant Virginia Kigisan, and Dolly Villaflor from the fertilizer supplier Bry Cin Enterprises (BCE).
According to the Ombudsman’s resolution finding probable cause against the respondents, the municipality received P1.95 million from the Department of Agriculture as part of the Farm Inputs and Farm Implements Program (FIFIP) of the Arroyo administration.
In 2004, the funds were spent to buy 1,300 bottles of Nutro Ocean Fertilizers at P1,500 per bottle even though the transaction was allegedly grossly overpriced by P1.74 million.
The indictment stemmed from a Commission on Audit (COA) report which found that the products delivered were substandard and not registered with the Fertilizer and Pesticides Authority.
There are also more suitable fertilizers available in the market at much lower prices, the COA said.
No public bidding was conducted, the COA said. The municipality did not even create its Bids and Awards Committee.
The inspection and payment for the supplier were also made on May 7, 2004 even though the products were delivered days later or on May 14.
“All these circumstances showed that public respondents, in conspiracy with Dolly Villaflor, acted with manifest partiality and gross inexcusable negligence in the procurement of nutro ocean fertilizers thereby causing undue injury to the municipality of Bakun and giving unwarranted benefit, advantage and preference to Bry Cin Enterprises and/or Dolly Villaflor,” Morales said in her resolution.
Due to the anomalies, the COA issued a notice of disallowance in 2006.
The respondents stand accused of violating Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which penalizes any public official who, by his official functions, causes undue injury to the government through manifest partiality, evident bad faith and gross inexcusable negligence. It covers private individuals who collude or conspire with public officials.
The mayor’s funds for the 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 was cleared by the Ombudsman in the alleged scam. IDL
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