MANILA — The Office of the Ombudsman (Ombudsman) has ordered the indictment before the Sandiganbayan of three former Pampanga officials and three other private individuals for their alleged involvement in the fertilizer fund scam.

This after the Ombudsman upheld the finding of probable cause against former Pampanga Governor and now Senator Manuel “Lito” Lapid, Provincial Accountant Benjamin Yuzon and Provincial Treasurer Vergel Yabut for violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019, or the “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act”.

Also facing indictment before the Sandiganbayan are the executives of Malayan Pacific Trading Corporation (MPTC) Ma. Victoria Aquino-Abubakar and Leolita Aquino, and Dexter Alexander Vasquez, proprietor of D.A. Vasquez Macro-Micro Fertilizer Resources (DA Vasquez).

The Special Panel for the Fertilizer Fund Scam found that several violations of the procurement rules were committed by Lapid, et. al. when “they entered into a transaction that (was) grossly and manifestly disadvantageous to the Government as it paid Php 4,761,818.18 (Php 4,850,000.00 less net of tax of Php 88,181.82) without ensuring that the government benefits from the best products/services available from the market at the best price.”

Records show that on March 18, 2004, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Pampanga adopted Resolution No. 72, authorizing Lapid to enter in behalf of the province, into an agreement with the Department of Agriculture Regional Field Unit III (DA-RFU III) for the implementation of the Farm Input Farm Implement Program in line with the DA’s Ginintuang Masaganang Ani Program.

On March 29, 2004, then DA Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante issued a memorandum requesting the approval of Sub-Allotment Advise for Php5 million.

On March 30, 2004 and April 29, 2004, the DA issued Notices of Transfer Allotment authorizing Landbank of the Philippines to transfer Php5 million to DA-RFU III.

The local government of Pampanga received on May 12, 2004 a price quotation from D.A. Vasquez offering its Macro-Micro Foliar Fertilizer at Php1,250 per liter/bottle, inclusive of training and technical assistance.

On May 21, 2004, then Gov. Lapid issued a purchase request covering the procurement of 3,880 bottles of fertilizer at Php1,250 per liter/bottle.

Lapid also issued a certification that “there was no suitable fertilizer substitute with the same quality” and that the mode of procurement would be direct purchase from its exclusive distributor, MPTC.

While in the performance of duties, Lapid, et. al. in conspiracy with Vasquez, Aquino and Abubakar, purchased the fertilizers in complete disregard of RA No. 9184, or the “Government Procurement Reform Act”.

The Ombudsman said that “if the Provincial government of Pampanga undertook the purchase through public bidding, it could have purchased a fertilizer of equal or better quality than Macro-Micro Foliar Fertilizer at a lesser or competitive cost, thus allowing the Province of Pampanga to secure the best commercially available fertilizer product at the lowest price possible.”

In determining overprice in the procurement, it was found that “the Macro-Micro Foliar Fertilizer is 1000% higher than the other fertilizers of the same kind.”

The Ombudsman added that the manner and inordinate speed by which the transaction was consummated, which was a mere 12 days, manifested the partiality of Lapid, et. al. to D.A. Vasquez and MPTC. Perfecto T. Raymundo /PNA