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Fertilizer fund scam case vs ex-gov junked

Sandiganbayan says right of former Surigao del Norte exec to speedy disposition of case violated by Ombudsman
/ 06:20 AM November 17, 2017

Robert Lyndon Barbers

Another case involving the alleged misuse of fertilizer funds from the government was dismissed by the antigraft court due to what it called as “inordinate delay” in the Ombudsman’s investigation.

The Sandiganbayan Second Division, in a 13-page resolution on Nov. 9, dismissed the graft and malversation cases of former Surigao del Norte Gov. Robert Lyndon Barbers because it took the prosecution five years and nine months to bring the case to the court.

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The period referred to the preliminary investigation stage—from the field investigators’ filing of a complaint on May 2, 2011, to Barbers’ indictment in the Sandiganbayan on Feb. 7 this year.

If the period covering the fact-finding investigation of the Ombudsman’s Task Force Abono were included, counted from the issuance of an audit memorandum on May 2, 2006, the delay would total 10 years and nine months.

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The court said the prosecution did not even bother to explain why it took so long to wrap up the investigation.

According to the court, the delay “has already caused prejudice” to Barbers because of his “weakened ability” to prepare his defense. It said witnesses might not be able to recall the events of the past.

“The Court holds that the right of accused Barbers to a speedy disposition of his criminal case has been violated,” read the resolution penned by Associate Justice Michael Frederick L. Musngi.

The resolution was concurred in by Associate Justices Oscar C. Herrera Jr. and Lorifel L. Pahimna.

Barbers 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 foliar fertilizer for P4.998 million.

Court records showed that instead of holding a public bidding, the provincial government 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.

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The charge said Barbers was accountable for the P5 million that he received in trust from the Department of Agriculture regional office for the implementation of the province’s Farm Implements Program.

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TAGS: antigraft court, fertilizer fund scam, inordinate delay, Ombudsman’s investigation
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