Ex-DA chief, 9 others face graft raps over car loan plans

MANILA — The Office of the Ombudsman has charged before the Sandiganbayan former Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary and now Bohol Rep. Arthur Yap and nine other officials with graft in connection with the alleged irregular car loan plans given to the Board of Trustees of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) from 2008 to 2009.

The Ombudsman charged Yap, who was then the Chairman of the PhilRice Board of Trustees, with one count each of violation of Sections 3(e) and 3(g) of Republic Act 3019, or the “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.”

Also named respondents are then-PhilRice board members Johnifer Batara, Fe Laysa, William Padolina, Winston Corvera, Gelia Castillo, Senen Bacani, and Rodolfo Undan.

Former PhilRice Executive Director Ronillo Beronio and former cashier Fe Lumawag are also facing charges of violation of Section 3(h) of RA 3019.

The PhilRice Board of Trustees allegedly conspired with one another when they favored 10 beneficiary-employees for the institute’s car plan, allowing them to obtain personal loans from the Philippine National Bank (PNB) for the purchase of private cars.

The cars were then leased to PhilRice for the employees’ official use, despite the fact that they supposedly continue to receive transportation allowances, “thereby causing undue injury to PhilRice, for it could not utilize its deposits with PNB during the subsistence of the loans,” the Ombudsman said.

It added the contract for the car plan had also failed to undergo public bidding.

Beronio and Lumawag allegedly signed holdout agreements with PNB pursuant to the car plan, which disallowed PhilRice to withdraw funds from its PNB account until the personal loans worth PHP15.78 million are paid in full.

Beronio himself was a beneficiary of the car plan.

The Ombudsman has recommended a PHP60,000 bail bond each for Yap and the other PhilRice Board of Trustees members.

It has also recommended PHP90,000 and PHP30,000 bail bonds for Beronio and Lumawag, respectively. Perfecto Raymundo, Jr. /PNA – northboundasia.com