Ex-Marinduque Rep, 7 Others Face Charges Over Fertilizer Scam

Former Congressman, Edmund O. Reyes
MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the filing of charges – including graft and malversation – against former Marinduque Representative Edmundo Reyes, Department of Agriculture officials for their alleged involvement in the P728-million ($16.3 million*) fertilizer fund scam.

Aside from Reyes, set to be charged before the Sandiganbayan are DA officials Dennis Araullo, Raymundo Braganza, Balagtas Torres, Rodolfo Guieb, Lucille Odejar, and Dory Iranzo, the Ombudsman said in a statement on Wednesday, December 10.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has also ordered charges filed against Margie Tajon Luz, president and chairman of the board of trustees of Gabaymasa Foundation Inc.

The Ombudsman said that the individuals were found liable for malversation of public funds and violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Morales said Reyes and the DA officials chose Gabaymasa, an NGO without proper government accreditation, as project implementor under the government’s Farm Inputs and Farm Implements Program.

This goes against Commission on Audit (COA) Circular No. 96-00 which provides that NGOs tapped to implement government projects should be duly accredited, verified and validated by the government.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) had earlier identified Marinduque as among the beneficiaries in a fertilizer program for farmers, and was allotted P5 million ($112,000) from the P728-million fertilizer fund.

’NGO with no track record’

In its resolution, the Ombudsman’s Task Force Abono said that Araullo and Reyes, representing DA Regional Field Unit IV and Marinduque, respectively, entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with Luz on March 10, 2004, for the P5-million fertilizer program in the province.

The task force also noted the following:

  1. Gabaymasa was based in Quezon City and not in the community where the project was to be implemented
  2. Gabaymasa only submitted its 2003 financial statement, in violation of the COA circular requiring the submission of financial statements for the last 3 years to ensure its financial stability
  3. Gabaymasa had no proven track record in the field of the agriculture
Morales concluded that “public officers Reyes, Araullo, Braganza, Torres, Guieb, Odejar, and Iranzo, in conspiracy with Luz consented or, through abandonment or negligence, permitted Gabaymasa to take the P5M fund in the guise of lawful disbursement” exhibiting “a deliberate lack of care or diligence in the performance of their respective duties…to achieve a common design of defrauding the government.”

The Ombudsman also found DA officials Araullo, Braganza, Torres, Guieb, Odejar and Iranzo administratively guilty of serious dishonesty, grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service. Morales ordered their dismissal from the service, forfeiture of retirement benefits, and perpetual disqualification from holding public office.

In November, the Ombudsman indicted August Syjuco Jr, former Iloilo 2nd District Representative and former Technical Education and Skills Authority (Tesda) director , and 12 others over the fertilizer fund scam.

The Senate probed the fertilizer fund scam in 2006, stemming from allegations that then Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-joc” Bolante had diverted P728-million in fertilizer funds to the 2004 campaign of President Gloria Arroyo.

In May, the Ombudsman cleared Arroyo of involvement in the scam, saying it found no evidence to implicate her. – Rappler.com

*$1 = P44.5

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