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Ombudsman OKs indictment vs Gache, et al

TALISAY, Camarines Norte – Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has recommended the indictment of former town mayor and now Board Member Rodolfo V. Gache, along with town officials Adela S. Adlawan, Cecilio Q. Noora, Jr., Raul R. Rayos, Miriam M. Hernandez, Ireneo P. Zabala, Romeo G. Maranan, and Felicisima M. Velasco.

Former Mayor and now Board Member Rodolfo V. Gache
Alex Rivera, and Victoria R. Ajero, private respondents, both representing the Board of Directors of Hexaphil Agriventures, Inc., (Hexaphil) were also charged for violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) in a resolution signed July 13.

The Ombudsman also approved the filing of two counts of Malversation of Public Funds or Property, defined and penalized under Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code, against the above named persons.

Complaint

This case stemmed from a complaint filed by Task Force Abono of the Field Investigation Office of the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the alleged P728-million Department of Agriculture (DA) Fund Scam.

From the said amount, P291,200,000.00 was provided for the implementation of the Farm Inputs and Farm Implements Program (FIFIP) of the DA.

One of the beneficiaries of this project was the municipality of Talisay, Camarines Norte. Through the initiative of Rep. Renato J. Unico, Jr., of the lone congressional district of Camarines Norte, DA Regional Field Unit V, transferred money to the municipality.

DA-RFU V then entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with Congressman Unico and Mayor Gache. Under the said MOA, DA- RFU V shall release the P3,000,000.00 fund to the Municipality, which shall use the fund to implement the project.

To implement the project, the Municipality issued Purchase Request (PR) No, 300-2004-04-024 and Purchase order (PO) No. 2004-04-24 to Hexaphil Agriventures, Inc (Hexaphil) indicating purchase of 4,285 bottles of Hexaplus liquid fertilizer at the unit price of P700.00 each, or a total of P2,995,500.00.

The municipality paid the said purchase in two tranches.

Per the unnumbered Acceptance and Inspection report dated 12 April 2004, the Municipality received 4,285 bottles of Hexaplus liquid fertilizer.

The complainant alleged that the respondents violated the provisions of RA 9184 when the respondents pursued direct contracting as the mode of procurement and made reference to the brand name Hexaplus in the Brief Project Proposal and PR.

The complainant also insisted that the transaction between the Municipality and Hexaphil was determined beforehand to circumvent the requirement of RA 9184 on public bidding.

The complainant disputed Hexaphil’s eligibility as supplier of liquid fertilizer and that the price of the liquid fertilized was “grossly overpriced.”

Furthermore, the complainant said that according to the national average prices of fertilizer and pesticides released by the Fertilizer Pesticide Authority for CY 2004, the prevailing retail prices of liquid fertilizers at the time of the procurement ranged from P130.00 to P420.00 only. Thus, the transaction was overpriced by P1,019,830.00 to P2,386,745.00, causing undue injury to the government.

On account of the above allegations, the complainant charged the respondents with violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019, which pertains to Malversation of Public Funds or Property.

Gache’s defense

Former Mayor Gache denied any knowledge or participation in the preparation of the Brief Project Proposal, the recommendation made by the BAC, the award of the contract to Hexaphil, the receipt of the fertilizers by the Municipality, the overpricing of Hexaplus liquid fertilizer, and the distribution of the fertilizers to the farmer beneficiaries.

Assistant Municipal Civil Register Raul Rayos, Municipal Treasurer Cecilio Noora, Municipal Development Coordinator (MPDC) Miriam Hernandez, Municipal Budget Officer Ireneo Zabala, and Municipal Civil Registrar Romeo Maranan also refuted the charges againt them. They said that from 12 to 27 March 2004, the BAC secretariat posted the Invitation to Bid in three different conspicuous places in the municipality as required by law.

They decided to pursue direct contracting as the mode of procurement because of the certifications issued by the municipal and provincial agriculturists that there was no suitable substitute for Hexaplus liquid fertilizer and that Hexaphil did not have sub dealers selling at lower prices.

Regarding the two lists of farmer beneficiaries, Municipal Agriculturist Felicisima Velasco explained that the first list contained the names of the proposed beneficiaries while the second list included those who actually received the liquid fertilizer.

Velasco maintained that all the bottles of fertilizer were distributed to all the beneficiaries and were all accounted for, and that the report with the correct number of beneficiaries was submitted to DA-RFU V.

She said that in the Audit Report by State Auditor Reblora, he declared that the “procurement of goods as observed relative to the application of the funds were made in consonance with the pertinent provision of RA 9184 processed thru Bids and Award Committee mandated functions and that the liquid fertilizers purchased were properly distributed to the intended beneficiaries.

As far as Municipal Treasurer Noora was concerned, he admitted that he signed the PR and two DVs and certified as to the availability of the funds since the DA-RFU V already transferred the fund to the municipality.

Municipal Accountant Adela Adlawan contended that she only certified to the completeness and propriety of supporting documents/previous cash advances/liquidated existence of fund held in trust.

Like the other respondents, Adlawan stressed that the State Auditor Reblora declared that the procurement of goods as observed relative to the application of the funds were made in consonance with the pertinent provisions of Republic Act 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act), processed through the Bids and Award Committee.

Victoria R. Ajero denied in her counter affidavit being an employee , officer, or being in any way connected with Hexaphil, except the accommodation she extended when she was appointed as one of its representatives for its transactions in the Bicol region.


Irregularities

Based on the evidence on record, as well as the complainant’s allegations, the Ombudsman said irregularities attended the subject procurement.

It was highly irregular for the BAC to award the contract to Hexaphil on 2 April 2004 even before the P3M funds was made available for the Municipality’s disposal and the request for purchase of liquid fertilizers was approved by Mayor Gache.

The delivery of the fertilizers to the Municipality and Hexaphil’s issuance of invoice preceded the execution of the MOA and the release of funds to the Municipality.

The 4,285 bottles of liquid fertilizer were received and inspected by the Municipality on April 12, 2004 despite the release of the P3-million fund in two tranches only after said receipt. Hexaphil could not have made a single delivery of 4,285 of liquid fertilizer worth P2,999,500.00 to the Municipality if the P3-million fund was released in two tranches.

Finally, the BAC recommended the award of the contract to Hexaphil without verifying the latter was qualified to supply liquid fertilizers at the time of the procurement.

“Based on these observations, it appears that the respondents’ public officers manipulated the procurement process to make it seem as if the transaction was regular and above board,” the record said.

“On the basis of the foregoing, this Office finds probable cause that Mayor Gache, Adlawan, Noora, Rayos, Hernandez, Zabala, Maranan, Velasco, Rivera and Ajero conspired with each other in committing violations of Sec 3 (e) of RA 3019,” the Ombudsman said.

Private respondents Rivera and Ajero actively represented Hexaphil in its transaction with the Municipality, and received unwarranted benefit on its behalf.

“The above-mentioned acts manifest a concurrence of the wills and a single criminal intent – with one participant performing a part of the transaction and others performing other parts of the transaction to complete the whole scheme, with a view of attaining the object they were pursuing”, the Ombudsman continued.

Ombudsman Carpio-Morales in approved the filing of the informations to the Sandiganbayan last July 13. —BICOLSTANDARD.COM. Pirming enot. Pirming bago.


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