CA clears agri officials in Romblon fertilizer scam

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THE Court of Appeals (CA) has cleared two more respondents in cases arising from an alleged fertilizer scam in Romblon.

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In an 18-page decision penned by Associate Justice Magdangal de Leon and concurred in by Associate
Justices Elihu Ybañez and Victoria Isabel Paredes, the CA’s Seventh Division granted a consolidated petition asking for the dismissal of the cases against Grover Dino and Dory Iranzo, both officials of the Department of Agriculture Field Unit IV (DA-RFU IV).

The cases stemmed from a complaint filed by the Task Force Abono-Field Investigation Office against petitioners over an allegedly anomalous transaction with the National Organization for Agricultural Enhancement and Productivity Inc. (NOAEPI).

The complainant alleged that NOAEPI issued purchase requests in favor of Feshan for 2,000 bottles of liquid organic fertilizer, priced at P1,500 per bottle or a total of P3 million.

It was found, however, that only 712 bottles of liquid fertilizer were distributed and the provincial agriculturist did not certify the lists of its beneficiaries.

The Ombudsman in March 2014 ordered the dismissal from the service of Dino and Iranzo, along with other DA officers, after they were found guilty of grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

But in its November 14, 2016 ruling publicly released recently, the appellate court held that “it is obvious that the Ombudsman’s only basis in imputing liability to petitioners is its theory of conspiracy, which is even rendered questionable by the fact that the signing of the checks was split between petitioners when it could have been signed just by one of them in order to limit the number of participants to whom the spoils, in a manner of speaking, will be divided.”

“The Ombudsman is practically relying on speculations in ascribing corrupt intent and conspiracy of wrongdoing against petitioners based solely on their act of affixing their signatures on the checks accompanied by documents endorsed by their immediate superiors [that]appeared to be regular and customary on their face,” the court said.

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