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Sandigan denies motion of ex-Catanduanes officials in fertilizer scam

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by Allan Yves Briones

The Sandiganbayan 2nd Division denied the Motion for Leave to File a Demurrer to Evidence filed by former Catanduanes officials, including former governor Leandro Verceles, Jr., marked as responsible for a fertilizer scam in 2005.

“The testimonial and documentary evidence presented by the prosecution, unless successfully rebutted by the accused, appear to be prima facie sufficient to support a finding of guilt beyond reasonable doubt,” the court stated in a resolution promulgated September 12.

Named in the complaint for violating Section 3 (e) of Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, the following former officials were responsible for filing the motion:

Leandro Verceles, Jr., former Catanduanes governor
Rodolfo Mali(enye)ana, former provincial engineer
Abelardo Abundo, Jr., former assistant provincial assessor
Hilda Arcilla, former engineer of the Provincial Engineer’s Office
Ireneo Del Rosario, former provincial budget officer
Roger Pitajen, former administrative officer
Herbert Evangelista, Sr., former provincial agriculturist
Julietta Tasarra, former provincial treasurer

In their motion, they argued that the prosecution failed to prove that there was “manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence” when they procured Macro Micro Liquid Fertilizer on December 20, 2005.

They insisted that competitive public bidding was upheld, pursuant to law, but was incorrectly documented as that of “direct contracting” – allowed under the law for only a few select instances including a great need or emergency.

The prosecution countered, stating that through “overwhelming evidence”, it was established that the named officials utilized “direct contracting” to procure overpriced fertilizer, proven through showcasing the correct market price.

In addition, the prosecution allegedly showed that, through violating procurement law, the former officials “improvidently favored” private company Green’s International Enterprises by signing purchase requests indicating the brand name, fertilizer chemical composition, and exact unit price.

A demurrer to evidence is tantamount to a dismissal of the case, granted when the evidence produced by the opposing side, is insufficient to sustain a verdict.

The resolution was written by Associate Justice Lorifel Pahimna, concurred by Division Chairperson Oscar Herrera, Jr. and Associate Justice Michael Frederick Musngi.