Ombudsman lowers boom on ex-Pampanga officials
Sen. Manuel “Lito” Lapid along with four others will be tried for graft before the Sandiganbayan for their alleged involvement in a multimillion fertilizer fund scam in 2004.
Lapid, a former actor and film stunt man, was the outgoing governor of Pampanga when the alleged anomaly took place.
Also named as respondents were provincial accountant Benjamin Yuzon, provincial treasurer Vergel Yabut and the alleged suppliers — Ma. Victoria Aquino-Abubakar and Leolita Aquino, incorporators of Malayan Pacific Trading Corporation (MPTC or Malayan), and Dexter Alexander Vasquez, proprietor of D.A. Vasquez Macro-Micro Fertilizer Resources (Vasquez Fertilizers).
The Office of the Ombudsman, through its Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP), charged Lapid and his five co-accused with violations of Sections 3 (e) and 3 (g) of Republic Act (RA) 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Section 3(e) of RA 3019 prohibits a public official from causing any undue injury to any party, or giving any private party unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions.
Section 3(g) prohibits the act of entering, on behalf of the government, into any contract or transaction manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the government, “whether or not the public officer profited or will profit thereby.”
Case records show that the provincial government of Pampanga purchased 3,880 liters of liquid fertilizers formulated by Vasquez Fertilizer in May 2004 amounting to P4.761 million. The fertilizer was distributed in Pampanga by Malayan.
The Ombudsman said the purchased items were overpriced by as much as P4.268 million as the fertilizer was sold at P1,250 per liter when its real value was only P150 per liter.
According to the Ombudsman’s office, the purchase was done without public bidding as required under RA 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.
It said the respondents also violated the procurement rules by resorting to direct purchasing “despite the availability of a suitable substitute offered at a much lower price in the locality.”
Assistant Special Prosecutor Omar Sagadal said the respondents caused “undue injury to the government and give [sic]unwarranted benefits, preference and advantage” to the private respondents.
The Ombudsman’s office alleged that it was Lapid–who at the time was an administration candidate for senator–who certified that there was no suitable substitute to MPTC’s Macro-Micro Foliar Fertilizer, which paved the way for the provincial government to unlawfully resort to the direct purchase agreement.
It pointed out that specification of a brand name in a purchase request was also a violation of the procurement rules.
The anti-graft body also cited the “inordinate speed” in the consummation of the transaction between the provincial government and the private respondents.
The Ombudsman noted that it was on May 12, 2004 when Vasquez Fertilizers submitted the price quotation for the products.
It was also noted that on May 24, 2004, Lapid had already issued the purchase order and on the same day, delivery was supposedly made.
The Ombudsman noted that on May 26, full payment was made by the provincial government to Malayan, thus, the full transaction was allegedly completed in a span of 14 days.
It was further alleged that Malayan was not an authorized supplier fertilizer products as it has no product registration and certificate of license to operate.
The Ombudsman said the purchased items were also not registered with the Fertilizers and Pesticide Authority as it was only in August 2005 when Vasquez Fertilizers applied for Product Registration with the FPA.
It was also said that the purchased items were overpriced by as much as P4.268 million as the fertilizer was sold at P1,250 per liter when its real value was only P150 per liter, “thereby causing undue injury to the government.”
The Ombudsman has recommended a bail bond of P30,000 for each count of the alleged graft offense.
Lapid, who is wrapping up his term as senator and is now running for mayor of Angeles City in Pampanga, said he welcomes the filing of the case.
“Senator Manuel ‘Lito’ M. Lapid welcomes the filing of a formal complaint on alleged irregularities committed during his tenure as governor of the province of Pampanga. It was unfortunate that it took almost 12 years and the conclusion of his two full terms as a Senator of the Republic before such matter is put to the appropriate forum,” the statement from the senator’s office said.
“He sees this as an opportunity to once and for all prove that he is innocent of the charges brought against him,” it added.