Ex-Cebu town mayor faces trial for Php6-M fertilizer scam

MANILA — The Office of the Ombudsman (Ombudsman) has upheld the charges against former Bogo, Cebu Mayor Celestino Martinez III and Municipal Treasurer Rhett Minguez for violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019, or the “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act”, for the alleged anomalous implementation of the 2004 Farm Inputs and Farm Implements Program worth Php6 million.

The Ombudsman found that in May 2004, the municipality of Bogo received six checks totaling Php6 million from the Department of Agriculture Regional Field Unit VII for the procurement of fertilizers for rice and corn.

During the implementation stage, an undated Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was entered into with non-government organization (NGO)-implementor Sikap Yaman with no stipulations as to project cost and time schedules.

In order to process the payment to the Quezon City-based NGO, Martinez and Minguez issued undated and unnumbered Disbursement Vouchers (DV) and Allotment and Obligation Slips.

The transaction was consummated despite the non-accreditation of Sikap Yaman as required under Commission on Audit (COA) Circular No. 96-003.

The COA also issued an Audit Observation Memorandum noting that the NGO failed to submit a list of previous projects implemented and that no accomplishment reports were submitted.

In upholding the charges, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said that “despite such irregularities, [respondents] signed the MOA, DV and check, which authorized the release of funds to Sikap Yaman as project implementor” which “paved the way for the illegal disbursement of public funds”.

“As signatories, respondents should have raised reasonable questions on the legality or regularity of the transaction,” the Ombudsman order said. Perfecto Raymundo/ PNA/northboundasia.com