Ex-Gov. Lapid, Pampanga execs charged for fertilizer fund scam

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Senator Manuel "Lito" M. Lapid. Senate Photo
Senator Manuel “Lito” M. Lapid. Senate Photo

By Perfecto T. Raymundo

MANILA, 1Aug2014 (PNA) — The Office of the Ombudsman has found probable cause to charge former Pampanga Governor and now Senator Manuel “Lito” Lapid, provincial accountant Benjamin Yuzon, provincial treasurer Vergel Yabut for violation of Section 3(e) in relation to Section 3(g) of Republic Act No. 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, in connection with the “Fertilizer Fund Scam”.

Also charged were the incorporators of Malayan Pacific Trading Corporation (MPTC) Ma. Victoria Aquino-Abubakar and Leolita Aquino, and Dexter Alexander Vasquez, proprietor of D.A. Vazquez Macro-Micro Fertilizer Resources.

Records showed that on March 18, 2004, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Pampanga adopted Resolution No. 72 authorizing Lapid to enter in behalf of the province, into an agreement with the Department of Agriculture Regional Field Unit III (DA RFU III) for the implementation of the Farm Input/Implement Fund/Program (FIFI) in line with the DA’s Ginintuang Masaganang Ani (GMA) Program.

On March 29, 2004, then DA Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante issued a Memorandum requesting the approval of Sub-Allotment Advise (SAA) for P5 million, covered by Sub-Allotment Release Order (SARO) No. E-04-00164.

On March 30, 2004 and April 29, 2004, the DA issued Notices of Transfer Allotment (NTA) authorizing Landbank of the Philippines to transfer P5 million to DA RFU III.

On May 12, 2004, the local government of Pampanga received a price quotation from D.A. Vazquez Macro-Micro Fertilizer Resources offering its Macro-Micro Foliar Fertilizer at P1,250.00 per liter/bottle, inclusive of training and technical assistance.

On May 21, 2004, then Gov. Lapid issued a Purchase Request covering the procurement of 3,880 bottles of fertilizer at P1,250.00 per liter/bottle.

Lapid also issued a certification that “there was no suitable fertilizer substitute with the same quality” and that the mode of procurement would be direct purchase from its exclusive distributor, MPTC.

In its findings, the Special Panel for the Fertilizer Fund Scam resolved that several violations of the procurement rules were committed by Lapid, Yuzon and Yabut when “they entered into a transaction that (was) grossly and manifestly disadvantageous…because the Government paid P4,761,818.18 (P4,850,000.00 less net of tax of P88,181.82) without ensuring that the government benefits from the best products/services available from the market at the best price.”

While in the performance of the duties, Lapid, Yabut and Yuzon, in conspiracy with Vasquez, Aquino and Abubakar, committed the act of purchasing the fertilizers in complete disregard of Republic Act No. 9184, or the “Government Procurement Reform Act”, and its Implementing Rules and Regulations.

The resolution said “if the Provincial government of Pampanga undertook the purchase through public bidding, it could have purchased a fertilizer of equal or better quality than Macro-Micro Foliar Fertilizer at a lesser or competitive cost, thus allowing the Province of Pampanga to secure the best commercially available fertilizer product at the lowest price possible.”

It noted “the Macro-Micro Foliar Fertilizer is 100 percent higher than other fertilizers of the same kind.”

Moreover, the manner and inordinate speed by which the transaction was consummated a mere 12 days — manifested the partiality of Lapid, Yabut and Yuzon to D.A. Vazquez and MPTC.

Meanwhile, the criminal cases against Lulu Alingcastre, Leonardo Mendoza, Ramir Flores, Ismael Abubakar, Jr., Alberto Aquino, Arthur Aquino, Paul Albert Aguino, Marites Sto. Domingo, Rolando Dorado and Ade Nasuiton were dismissed for lack of probable cause.

By reason of his death, the charge against Benalfre Galang was also dismissed.

In the related administrative case, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales also ordered the dismissal from the service of Pampanga provincial treasurer Vergel Yabut and Pampanga provincial accountant Benjamin Yuzon.

Morales reminded “as officials tasked to enforce local taxation and fiscal matters within their local government unit, it is but expected for the Provincial Treasurer and Provincial Accountant to be abreast and knowledgeable to recent developments in fiscal administration, i.e. RA 9184 (Procurement Law) and its IRR-A, and to implement the same within their jurisdiction.”

The ruling said “when they (Yabut and Yuzon) performed the said acts without questioning the propriety of the transaction, much less inquiring whether the same was in accordance with the existing policies and procedures, and by mechanically fixing their signature thereon, they signified their acquiesce to disregard RA 9184.”

On the other hand, the administrative charges against other co-respondents Lulu Alingcastre, Leonardo Mendoza and Ramir Flores were dismissed for lack of merit. (PNA)

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