• Villafuerte insists P20-M case lacks cause

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    FORMER governor Luis “L-Ray” Villafuerte Jr. of Camarines Sur asked the Sandiganbayan to review his case as  it lacks probable cause that warrants outright dismissal.

    Saying that the P20-million purchase of gasoline in his province was legal and above board, the erstwhile provincial chief said that the Office of the Ombudsman made a “sweeping conclusion” when it accused him of purchasing P20-million of petroleum products without public bidding.

    The defense in 20-page motion said that even before Villafuerte’s time, officials of the province “did not undergo public bidding [for gasoline]as it in fact underwent direct contracting” or single source procurement.

    Villafuerte said that the annexes in the complaint would show that the price watches on petroleum products as of May 31, 2010 and August 17, 2010, showed that gasoline stations from within Naga City offer same prices, making public bidding “impractical.”

    “Economy, efficiency, and the price that is the most advantageous to the government were obtained even in the absence of a public bidding,” the
    pleading read.

    Villafuerte added that Petron Naga, where the gasoline was purchased, had been the consistent supplier of petrol since 2006 and the company’s standing was ensured and evaluated.

    He said that the finding of graft investigators that the deliveries were paid but not delivered was “disturbing, for being untrue and unfounded.”

    Arrangements between Cama-rines Sur and Petron showed that the province will pay the company per liter. The gasoline will be deposited at the storage facilities of Petron.

    In turn, Petron will allow the provincial capitol “to withdraw from such deposit whenever and as often as its need for fuel arises, and until the deposit is consumed.”

    “This commitment of the supplier to make available upon demand . . . confirms that the fuel sold is in fact delivered to Camarines Sur upon payment, and is not paid in advance,” the defense raised, adding that such “deposit account arrangement” has also been observed by the Philippine Army.

    The defense said that there could be no such thing as payment in advance because at the time that the fuel products has been paid, those were already delivered and stored in the facilities of Petron Naga under the deposit account arrangement scheme.

    “This kind of arrangement makes Petron Naga as a storage area that saves the provincial government from spending for storage fees,” the motion read.

    In buying by bulk, the defense also said that they saved P429.96 million worth of diesel and P540.51 million worth of unleaded gas because there were days after the purchase of the fuel when the market prices increased from 65 centavos to P15 between April to December 2010.

    “Even without computing,  it is already evident that  the provincial government was able to save money . . . the subject transaction was favorable and advantageous,” the defense said.

    For lack of probable cause, the defense urged the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division to ultimately dismiss the three-count graft charges of Villafuerte.

    Pending, determination of probable cause, the defense also asked the court to hold in abeyance the issuance of warrant of arrest against him until the Ombudsman resolved his pending motion for reconsideration.

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