Ex-Surigao governor wants fertilizer fund case quashed
MANILA — Former Surigao del Norte governor Robert Lyndon Barbers has asked the Sandiganbayan to junk his graft and malversation cases in connection with the 2004 fertilizer fund scam.
In an 18-page motion to quash, Barbers cited the alleged “unexplained delay” of five years and three months taken by the Office of the Ombudsman during the preliminary investigation stage.
Although the Task Force Abono executed the complaint in August 2010, the Ombudsman only found probable cause to indict Barbers in November 2015 and brought the case to the Sandiganbayan this month.
He also invoked his “right to equal protection to be accorded similar treatment to those charged with the same offenses.”
Barbers cited the court’s recent dismissal of the fertilizer fund cases against former Palawan 2nd Dist. Rep. (now-Games and Amusement Board chair) Abraham Kahlil Mitra, and former Pampanga Governor Manuel Lapid. These took five-and-a-half, and four-and-a-half years at the Ombudsman’s level, respectively.
The former governor was charged with two counts each of malversation and violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act over the purchase of 3,322 kilograms of Elements foliar fertilizer at a total of P4.998 million.
Instead of holding public bidding, the province resorted to direct contracting in two instances in May and December 2004. Prosecutors said the purchase was “tailor-fit” in favor of exclusive distributor Rosa Mia Trading.
The fertilizer was also allegedly overpriced by P1,330 per kilogram or a total of P4,431,550, which meant the government ended up paying nine times more than it should have.
The charge sheet seeks to hold Barbers accountable for the P5 million he received in trust from the Department of Agriculture regional office for the implementation of the province’s Farm Implements Program. SFM
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