Ex-gov Kho shrugs off fertilizer scam charge

MASBATE CITY—Former Masbate Gov. Antonio “Tony” Kho defended himself over the fertilizer fund scam in which he was indicted by the Office of the Ombudsman last September 9.

Former Masbate Gov. Antonio “Tony” Kho
Over Facebook, Kho said he wanted to “set the records straight” although the case is “still undergoing preliminary investigation.”

“We are confident that the totality of evidence will soon speak for itself in due time and in the proper forum,” his statement read.

“(1) The Ombudsman Resolution itself categorically stated that the P5M fertilizer project in 2004 involving (Gov.) Tony Kho was NOT A GHOST PROJECT as there was actual project implementation here;” it continued.

“In fact, the Ombudsman Resolution itself categorically stated that THERE WAS NO OVERPRICING and that the Government Accounting and Auditing Procedures were observed in the implementation of the project;

The lone issue awaiting resolution is on the propriety of the mode by which the fertilizers were purchased - which was through DIRECT CONTRACTING. Direct contracting is allowed as an alternative mode for procurement under the Government Procurement Act (Republic Act 9184). It is an exception to the general rule on public bidding, inasmuch as in this case, there were no other suppliers for the said fertilizers as shown by the Certification of the Bids and Awards Committee, as later corroborated by the Department of Trade and Industry in a Certification that the existing liquid fertilizer companies did not sell liquid fertilizers in the year 2004 – the year of the project implementation.”

“In sum, it is sufficient for the public to know for now that the Ombudsman Resolution itself found that the subject project have in fact reached the intended farmer-beneficiaries and there was no damage or undue prejudice against the government,” Kho’s statement concluded.

Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales directed the filing of Informations for violations of Sections 3(e) and 3(g) of Republic Act No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act), and Sections 65.3(1) and 65.2 (d) of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act  No. 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act) against Kho and the other respondents.

Along with the former governor, ordered charged were former Masbate provincial administrator and Bids and Awards Committee chairman Roger Rapsing, Hexaphil president Alex Rivera and Area Agriventures Inc. manager and collector Victoria Ajero, former Butuan City agriculturist Salvador Satorre, city treasurer Adulfo Llagas, assistant city treasurer Arthur Castro, general services officer Rodolfo Evanoso, accountant Bebiano Calo, city budget officer Danilo Furia, supply officer Melita Loida Galbo and Lucio Lapidez, representative of Feshan Philippines Inc., former Rizal provincial agriculturist Danilo Rumbawa; BAC members Romulo Arcilla, Eugene Durusan, Victorina Olea, Eduardo Torres, Danilo Collantes and Virgilio Esguerra; and Mallyne Araos, representative of Feshan Philippines Inc.

‘Unlawful disbursement of funds’

The case stemmed from the unlawful disbursement of funds which formed part of the P728M fertilizer fund allocated for the implementation of the Farm Inputs and Farm Implements Program (FIFIP) of the Department of Agriculture (DA) released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) in February 2004 under Notice of Cash Allocation No. 222447-I.

On 22 April 2004, the provincial government of Masbate represented by Kho, entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the DA-Regional Field Unit V, as one of the beneficiaries of the FIFIP entitling the province to a P5,000,000.00 sub-allotment from the DBM.

Pursuant to the MOA, Kho approved two purchase requests for 7,143.33 bottles of Hexaplus (11-7-1) liquid fertilizers with a cost of P700.08 per bottle, or for a total amount of P5 million, procured through direct contracting in favor of Hexaplus as exclusive distributor.

The purchase order for 2,499 bottles of Hexaplus was issued and paid on 28 April 2004 while the remaining 4,642.33 bottles were paid on 29 December 2004.

Based on the investigation, several irregularities in the procurement were uncovered such as reference to specific brand names; no sufficient justification presented in resorting to direct contracting; and the eligibility requirements of Hexaphil were spurious as it submitted fake or expired business permits and licenses from the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority and the Securities and Exchange Commission.—BICOLSTANDARD.COM