Ex-Agri chief, PhilRice officials face graft over P15.78-million car loans

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 16 2018 01:48 PM | Updated as of Jan 16 2018 03:04 PM

MANILA - Former Agriculture Secretary and incumbent Bohol Rep. Arthur Yap is facing additional graft charges after the Office of the Ombudsman filed 2 more at the Sandiganbayan for P15.78 million in car loans of employees of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) during his time in the agency.

Also included in the charges were then PhilRice Board of Trustees members Johnifer Batara, Fe Laysa, William Padolina, Winston Corvera, Gelia Castillo, Senen Bacani, Rodolfo Undan and Executive Director Ronilo Beronio.

The officials were accused of violating Sec. 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for allegedly giving unwarranted benefits to PhilRice employee-beneficiaries, as well as Sec. 3(g) for supposedly entering into grossly disadvantageous contracts or transactions on behalf of the government from 2008 to 2009.

Aside from the PhilRice officials, a cashier named Fe Lumawag was included in one count of graft.

According to the information filed by the Office of the Ombudsman, PhilRice officials including Yap, who was then chairman of the Board of Trustees, instituted car plans that allowed employees to “obtain personal loans from the Philippine National Bank (PNB) for the purchase of their private cars, secured by the PhilRice funds through hold-out agreements with PNB.”

The private cars were then “leased by PhilRice for the official use of the beneficiary-employee without the benefit of public bidding, with the beneficiary-employee still entitled to transportation allowance despite the use of an official vehicle.”

The accused were charged “while in the performance of their administrative and/or official functions.” The charge said Beronio and Lumawag signed "Hold-Out Agreements with the Philippine National Bank, pursuant to the PhilRice Car Plan instituted by the PhilRice Board of Trustees comprised of the above-named accused." 

It said the arrangement subjected "PhilRice’s deposit to PNB to the agreement that said deposit will not be withdrawn until the car/personal loans guaranteed are paid in full amounting to P15,780,000.00.”

Beronio was among employee-beneficiaries of the car plan identified in the information, along with Sophia Borja, Rolando Cruz, Rodolfo Escabarte Jr., Sergio Francisco, Manuel Gaspar, Edgar Libetario, Mario Movillon, Evangeline Sibayan, and Artemio Vasallo.

Aside from the two graft cases, Beronio is also facing another count of graft for allegedly violating Sec. 3(g) of the anti-graft law for having “pecuniary interest” by issuing administrative orders “while being himself a beneficiary of the PhilRice Car Plan.”

Yap is also currently facing two sets of graft cases at the Sandiganbayan in connection with the alleged misuse of Priority Development Assistance Funds of former lawmakers Rodolfo Antonino and Marina Clarete.