Ex-Cebu mayor faces graft over P6M fertilizer fund scam

A former Cebu mayor was charged with graft before the Sandiganbayan for his alleged involvement in a fertilizer fund scam. In a statement, the Office of the Ombudsman said it affirmed the filing of graft charges against former Bogo mayor Celestino Martinez III and municipal treasurer Rhett Minguez for violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. The charges stemmed from the anomalous implementation of the 2004 Farm Inputs and Farm Implements Program worth P6 million during the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In its investigation, the Ombudsman found that in May 2004, the Bogo municipal government (Bogo achieved cityhood status in 2007—ed) received six checks worth P6 million from the Department of Agriculture Regional Field Unit VII for the procurement of fertilizers for rice and corn. The municipal government then entered into an undated memorandum of agreement with the nongovernment organization Sikap Yaman that lacked the stipulations on the project cost and time schedules. To process the payment to the NGO based in Quezon City, Martinez and Minguez issued undated and unnumbered Disbursement Vouchers (DV) and Allotment and Obligation Slips. The Ombudsman said the transaction was consummated despite deficiencies in Sikap Yaman, such as the lack of accreditation required under a circular by the Commission on Audit (COA). In its audit observation, the COA said the NGO failed to submit a list of previous projects implemented and that it did not submit any accomplishment report.

In affirming their indictment, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said “despite such irregularities, [respondents] signed the MOA, DV and check, which authorized the release of funds to Sikap Yaman as project implementor” which “paved the way for the illegal disbursement of public funds.” “As signatories, respondents should have raised reasonable questions on the legality or regularity of the transaction,” Morales said in her order.

They stand accused of violation Section 3(e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which states that public officials are prohibited from causing any undue injury to any party, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his or her official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.


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