Ex-gov faces graft suits over P20-M gas purchases

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FORMER Gov. Luis “L-Ray” Villafuerte Jr. of Camarines Sur is facing three counts of graft before the Sandiganbayan for the purchase of P20 million of petroleum products without public bidding.

The Office of the Ombudsman charged the former provincial chief with three counts of graft together with Jeffrey Lo, proprietor of Naga Fuel Express Zone, who was paid for the petrol products but he did not release such to the provincial hall.

The charge sheets showed that Villafuerte bought petroleum products in three tranches in 2010: P5 million on January 22; another P5 million between January 7 and 23; and P10 million on April 7.

Complainant Carlo Batalla alleged that Villafuerte bought fuels from Lo between January and April 2010. Batalla added that the provincial hall had not yet used up the fuel but Villafuerte still bought more.

“Although Lo had already received advanced payment, he still refused to effect delivery thereof to the provincial government, and instead, insisted without justifiable reason, on retaining custody of the same,” the Ombdusman resolution read.

In his defense, Villafuerte said that Camarines Sur did not go through public bidding because doing so “would be impractical,” among other reasons.

“Villafuerte’s assertions are lame justification for his irregular acts,” the Ombudsman ruled.

It added that the “department order or traditional practice,” which the province resorted cannot override the “almost peremptory” public bidding requirement stipulated in the Government Reform Procurement Act.

“An assiduous examination of the case records reveals that there was no public bidding conducted for the purchase of petroleum products. What’s more, there is no evidence showing that the provincial bids and awards committee prepared a resolution,” the resolution read.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales approved the filing of the criminal complaint but the administrative charge has been dropped due to the reelection of Villafuerte in May 2010.

“While there is substantial evidence to support the administrative case [Villafuerte’s] reelection had mooted his administrative liability,” the dispositive portion read.
Bail bond was set at P30,000 per each count for provisional liberty.

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