SORSOGON CITY – A member of the Sorsogon provincial legislative board has asked the banks to shelve the P350-million loan being worked out by Governor Raul Lee amidst the graft charge the governor is facing with the Sandiganbayan involving the multi-million peso fertilizer fund scam.
In recent letters, Board Member Vladimir Frivaldo appealed to the Philippine National Bank (PNB) and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) to defer approval of the loan being negotiated by Lee pending resolution of the case filed by the Office of the Ombudsman last month but was made public only on April 13.
Lee, along with his chief accountant Raul Hernandez and provincial treasurer Ofelia Velasco, was charged based on his participation in the alleged diversion to former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s campaign fund in 2004 of P728-million intended for farmers’ assistance through the Department of Agriculture (DA).
The province got P5 million of that fund from the DA shortly before the 2004 elections and Lee was accused of using over P3 million of it in allegedly buying overpriced liquid fertilizer from Feshan Philippines Inc. which was represented by Eunique Galang, a sister-in-law of the governor’s son, now this city’s vice mayor Roberto Rodrigueza.
“By deferring the loan application of the Province of Sorsogon until Gov. Raul Lee is vindicated and cleared by the Sandiganbayan, we will eliminate doubts and increase people’s trust in the government. These banks should also discontinue any further negotiations with the provincial government to avoid further controversy,” Frivaldo said in the letters.
“I would like to stress that the proposed P350-million loan is the biggest in the history of Sorsogon or not just a peanut money so that it should be reviewed and studied carefully unlike the approval done in 20 minutes by majority of the members of the provincial board,” he said.
The neophyte provincial legislator said that majority of the members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, during its regular session last April 11 hastily approved a resolution authorizing Lee to enter into an agreement with either or both the PNB or the DBP for the P350-million loan despite his objection on several “valid” grounds.
Among those grounds, Frivaldo said was his pending request for a report on how the proceeds of the P260-million loan acquired in late 2009 by the province through then governor Sally Lee, the incumbent governor’s wife was spent.
“We need to know what happened to the previous loan, or even analyze whether or not the money was really needed and was properly used for the purpose for which it was applied in the first place,” he explained.
Besides, the fertilizer scam case, a scandalous incident that linked Lee to one of the most controversial political case in the country not only put a shadow in the integrity of the governor and doubt in him but gave embarrassment and dishonor to the people of Sorsogon, Frivaldo, a grandson of the late former governor Juan Frivaldo, added.
Lee and his two financial managers have denied the charges and said the provincial government did not incur any loss because the money used was a grant from the agriculture department. He also assailed as “blatantly erroneous” news reports on his involvement in the scam. (Danny O. Calleja/PNA)