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Ombudsman indicts ex-Southern Leyte governor Lerias

The Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the indictment of former Southern Leyte governor Rosette Lerias over the alleged anomalous purchase of P2.3 million worth of fertilizers.

In a press statement on Thursday, the Ombudsman said Lerias will face charges of violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Then-Provincial Government Bids and Award Committee (PGBAC) members Virginia Cruz, Catalino Olayvar, Teopisto Rojas, Jr., Fernando Moralde and Joseph Duarte were also named as respondents. They will face additional charges of falsification of public documents.

The case stemmed from the approval by the provincial government of the procurement of P5 million worth of fertilizers for the rehabilitation of Southern Leyte's rice program in June 2006.

The PGBAC entered a memorandum of agreement with Philippine Phosphate Fertilizer Corporation (PhilPhos) for the project in August 2006 through direct contracting.

A check worth P2.3 million was then issued and received by Duarte for the purchase of 2,514 bags of fertilizers for the towns of Libagon, St. Bernard, San Juan, Arahawan, Hinundayan, Hinunangan, San Francisco and Pintuyan.

However, the Ombudsman said the Office of the Provincial Accountant found that “there is no record of an existing MOA between the province and PhilPhos.”

The Ombudsman further said “none of the conditions justified the Direct Contracting of fertilizers" since the execution of a MOA is not one of the procurement modes mandated by the Government Procurement Reform Act.

"What was used to justify the resort to Direct Contracting was the supposed MOA between the province and PhilPhos for the latter to supply the former with fertilizers. 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,” it said.

The anti-graft body also denied Lerias' motion to dismiss the case due to inordinate delay, saying there are no charges yet filed in court.

"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," the Ombudsman said.

"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 persons under investigation are not yet respondents who could be prejudiced by the delay. Notably, the complaint was filed only on March 14, 2016 and the office had since acted upon every incident promptly, negating inordinate delay,” it added. —KG, GMA News