Ex-S. Leyte guv, 5 others charged with graft

MANILA The Office of the Ombudsman has filed graft charges against former Southern Leyte Governor Rosette Lerias and five members of the Provincial Government Bids and Award Committee (PGBAC).

Probable cause for charges of violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act was found against Lerias and PGBAC members Virginia Cruz, Catalino Olayvar, Teopisto Rojas, Jr., Fernando Moralde, and Joseph Duarte.

Likewise, charges of falsification of public documents were ordered to be filed against Cruz, Olayvar, Rojas, Jr., Moralde, and Duarte.

Ombudsman probers discovered that in June 2006, the provincial government of Southern Leyte authorized the acquisition of PHP5-million worth of fertilizers for the rehabilitation of its rice program.

In August 2006, the PGBAC resolved to engage in direct contracting with the Philippine Phosphate Fertilizer Corporation (PhilPhos) for the fertilizer deal.

The respondents claimed that the province entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with PhilPhos as fertilizer supplier.

Subsequently, a check worth PHP2.31 million was issued and received by Provincial Budget Officer Duarte as cash advance for 2,514 bags of fertilizers to be distributed in the municipalities of Libagon, St. Bernard, San Juan, Arahawan, Hinundayan, Hinunangan, San Francisco, and Pintuyan.

Upon scrutiny, the Office of the Provincial Accountant certified that there is no record of an existing MOA between the province and PhilPhos.

Probers also uncovered that none of the conditions justified the direct contracting of fertilizers".

"What was used to justify the resort to direct contracting, as stated in the PGBAC Resolution No. 55 [Series] of 2006, was the supposed MOA between the province and PhilPhos for the latter to supply the former with fertilizers. The execution of an MOA, however, is not one of the conditions enumerated in Section 50 of Republic Act No. 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act). Hence, by signing the PGBAC Resolution, respondents PGBAC members, together with respondent Governor Lerias who approved the same, violated Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019, the investigators reported.

The anti-graft body also dismissed Lerias' plea to junk the case due to alleged inordinate delay.

In its resolution, the Ombudsman said: The Office does not subscribe to the plea of dismissal based on inordinate delay. Unless preventive suspension is ordered, the investigation or fact-finding does not disturb, interrupt, or vex the would-be respondent, such that he may cry foul and claim inordinate delay in the case build-up. Furthermore, fact-finding is a separate proceeding prior to the filing of a formal complaint, which means that there are yet no charges filed against anyone. The persons under investigation are not yet respondents who could be prejudiced by the delay. Notably, the complaint was filed only on 14 March 2016, and the office had since acted upon every incident promptly, negating inordinate delay.

Source: Philippine News Agency