The Office of the Ombudsman has filed graft charges before the Sandiganbayan against former Palawan governor Mario Joel Reyes and four others in connection with the allegedly anomalous purchase of liquid fertilizers in 2004.
Charged with Reyes were Department of Agriculture (DA)-Regional Unit IV officers, former Regional Executive Director Dennis Araullo and former Officer-in-Charge Regional Technical Director Rodolfo Guieb.
Private individuals Marina Sula and Nathaniel Tan, then-president and representative, respectively, of the non-government organization (NGO) Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation, Inc. (MAMFI), were also named respondents.
In a charge sheet filed on Wednesday and approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio- Morales, Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer I Karla Maria Barrios alleged that the respondents conspired and gave “unwarranted benefits, privilege and advantage” to the NGO “by causing and/or approving the procurement from MAMFI of 3,240 bottles of liquid fertilizer without public bidding…”
A disbursement voucher dated May 26, 2004 was allegedly approved, making it appear that MAMFI was qualified to implement the DA’s Farm Inputs and Farm Implements Program (FIFIP) and that it submitted all the needed documents for its accreditation as project implementor.
But “the accused knew well that MAMFI was not qualified to be accredited as project implementor and that it did not submit the complete documents required for its accreditation under Commission on Audit Circular No. 96-003…,” Barrios’ recommendation said.
The respondents also allegedly facilitated the release of P3.25 million in public funds to the prejudice of the government.
The Ombudsman recommended P30,000 bail for each of the accused.
Under Section 3(e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, public officials are prohibited from causing undue injury to any party, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of their official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.
MAMFI has also been linked to the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and is among the NGOs allegedly run by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam.
Sula is a key pork scam witness.