MANILA — The Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the filing of a criminal case against former Sugar Regulatory Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica over the procurement of farming equipment that was delayed for almost 3 years.
In a joint resolution dated July 5, 2023 and signed by Ombudsman Samuel Martires on August 7, the agency ordered the filing of a criminal charge against Serafica for allegedly violating the Government Procurement Reform Act.
The case stemmed from a 2017 procurement of 25 units of Ripper Harrower. A harrow is a farm implement used to till the soil to break up clods and smooth out the soil surface to make it suitable for planting.
The Office of the Ombudsman noted it took almost 3 years since the invitation to bid was posted in August 2017 until the issuance of notice to proceed with the delivery of the equipment, when this should have been done in around 130 to 136 days under the implementing rules and regulations of RA 9184.
The Ombudsman also faulted Serafica for procuring farm tractors only in 2020 when this should have been done along with the procurement of harrowers in 2017.
Serafica could face imprisonment of between 6 years and 1 day to 15 years, if found liable under RA 9184.
Serafica was also found guilty of gross neglect of duty and grave misconduct and was ordered dismissed from service with forfeiture of retirement benefits and perpetual disqualification from holding public office.
The Ombudsman said that while the 3-year delay in the award of the contract for harrows could only have amounted to simple neglect, the delayed notice to proceed with its delivery and the delay in procurement of tractors amounted to grave misconduct and gross neglect of duty.
The Ombudsman however junked the graft complaint against him, saying that the allegations against him did not fall under the provisions of section 3(e) of RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, as there was no evidence of undue injury to any party.
Serafica resigned from the SRA in 2022 following a sugar importation issue.
The Ombudsman imposed an alternative penalty of a fine amounting to one year’s worth of his salary as SRA administrator.
ABS-CBN is still trying to get his side.
Meanwhile, the Ombudsman, in the same resolution, absolved 8 other SRA officials of any criminal or administrative liability, including those who were part of the bids and awards committee (BAC).
It said the BAC had neither power nor authority to influence the award beyond its recommendation and it was Serafica, as head of the procuring entity, who is ultimately liable.
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