MANILA - The Office of the Ombudsman has found probable cause to file graft charges against former Southern Leyte Governor Rosette Lerias and five members of the Provincial Government Bids and Award Committee (PGBAC).
Ombudsman investigators found that in 2006, the province authorized the acquisition of P5 million worth of fertilizers for the rehabilitation of its rice program. The transaction involved Lerias and employees Virginia Cruz, Catalino Olayvar, Teopisto Rojas, Jr., Fernando Moralde and Joseph Duarte.
Additional charges of falsification of public documents were also ordered to be filed against Cruz, Olayvar, Rojas, Jr., Moralde and Duarte.
The respondents claimed that the province entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Philippine Phosphaste Fertilizer Corporation (PhilPhos) as the supplier of fertilizer.
A check worth P2,313,545.00 was issued and received by Provincial Budget Officer Duarte as cash advance for 2,514 bags of fertilizers to be distributed in the municipalities of Libagon, St. Bernard, San Juan, Arahawan, Hinundayan, Hinunangan, San Francisco and Pintuyan.
The Office of the Ombudsman also said that upon scrutiny, the Office of the Provincial Accountant certified that “there is no record of an existing MOA between the province and PhilPhos.”
Investigators also found that resorting to direct contracting was not justified.
“What was used to justify the resort to Direct Contracting as stated in the PGBAC Resolution No. 55 [Series] of 2006, was the supposed MOA between the province and PhilPhos for the latter to supply the former with fertilizers. The execution of a MOA, however, is not one of the conditions enumerated in Section 50 of Republic Act No. 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act). Hence, by signing the PGBAC Resolution, respondents PGBAC members together with respondent Governor Lerias who approved the same, violated Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019,” the Office of the Ombudsman said.
The Ombudsman also noted that Lerias asked for the dismissal of the case due to alleged inordinate delay.
“The Office does not subscribe to the plea of dismissal based on inordinate delay. Unless preventive suspension is ordered, the investigation or fact-finding does not disturb, interrupt or vex the would be respondent, such that he may cry foul and claim inordinate delay in the case build-up. Furthermore, fact-finding is a separate proceeding prior to the filing of a formal complaint, which means that there are yet no charges filed against anyone,” the Ombudsman said.