Sandiganbayan won't junk graft cases vs ex-Agri chiefs Yap, Lorenzo over fertilizer procurement

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 17 2018 04:47 PM

MANILA - The Sandiganbayan 6th Division has denied motions that former Agriculture Secretaries Cito Lorenzo Jr. and Arthur Yap filed for the dismissal of five graft cases stemming from the procurement of fertilizers worth P46.4 million in 2003.

The Ombudsman alleged that Lorenzo, who was then Agriculture Secretary, and Yap, then National Food Authority Administrator, conspired with Philippine Phosphate Fertilizer Corp. representative Tomas Guibani for the negotiated procurement of fertilizers for the National Capital Region and Regions 2 to 5, in violation of the Government Procurement Act.

The court did not agree with the arguments of Yap and Lorenzo that the facts charged do not constitute an offense.

“The court finds that the material averments in the informations, assuming them to be true, sufficiently allege all the elements constitutive of violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act. No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act), as amended,” the court said. 

The resolution was penned by Associate Justice Kevin Narce Vivero, with the concurrence of 6th Division Chairperson Sarah Jane Fernandez and Associate Justice Maryann Corpus-Mañalac.

The anti-graft court also did not agree with Lorenzo's assertion that Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Government Procurement Act took effect only on October 8, 2003 while the questioned procurement was undertaken between May and August of the same year.

Lorenzo had further asserted that what should have been applicable was Executive Order No. 40, which states that in cases where advertisements were issued after the effectivity of the law but before the effectivity of the IRR, procuring entities may continue the procurement procedures.

“Granting arguendo that EO 40 is apropos, resort to methods of procurement other than competitive bidding remains subject to the following preconditions, to wit: when justified by extraordinary conditions, prior approval of the head of the agency, and resort thereto was made in the interest of economy and efficiency,” the court said.

The court also rejected Yap's argument that, among others, his directive for the simultaneous opening of bids does not in any way demonstrate that he was manifestly partial towards PhilPhos.

“These evidentiary matters require a fuller examination in a full-blown trial,” the court said. 

The court also did not agree with the contention of Guibani, in a similar motion he filed, and Lorenzo that their right to speedy disposition of cases was violated, as they failed to substantiate their allegation. 

Yap is currently a district representative of Bohol.