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Ex-Gov. Lapid, Pampanga officials charged over fertilizer fund scam

          The Office of the Ombudsman has affirmed the finding of probable cause against former Pampanga Governor (now Senator) Manuel “Lito” Lapid, Provincial Accountant Benjamin Yuzon and Provincial Treasurer Vergel Yabut for violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act).  Included in the indictment are the executives of Malayan Pacific Trading Corporation (MPTC) Ma. Victoria Aquino-Abubakar and Leolita Aquino, and Dexter Alexander Vasquez, proprietor of D.A. Vasquez Macro-Micro Fertilizer Resources (DA Vasquez).

         The Special Panel for the Fertilizer Fund Scam found that several violations of the procurement rules were committed by Lapid, et. al.  when “they entered into a transaction that (was) grossly and manifestly disadvantageous to the Government as it paid P4,761,818.18 (P4,850,000.00 less net of tax of P88,181.82) without ensuring that the government benefits from the best products/services available from the market at the best price.”

     Records show that on 18 March 2004, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Pampanga adopted Resolution No. 72 authorizing Lapid to enter in behalf of the province, into an agreement with the Department of Agriculture Regional Field Unit III (DA-RFU III) for the implementation of the Farm Input Farm Implement Program in line with the DA’s Ginintuang Masaganang Ani Program.

        On 29 March 2004, then DA Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante issued a memorandum requesting the approval of Sub-Allotment Advise for P5 million.   On 30 March 2004 and 29 April 2004, the DA issued Notices of Transfer Allotment authorizing Landbank of the Philippines to transfer P5 million to DA-RFU III.

          The local government of Pampanga received on 12 May 2004 a price quotation from D.A. Vasquez offering its Macro-Micro Foliar Fertilizer at P1,250.00 per liter/bottle, inclusive of training and technical assistance.

            On 21 May 2004, then Governor Lapid issued a purchase request covering the procurement of 3,880 bottles of fertilizer at P1,250.00 per liter/bottle.  Lapid also issued a certification that “there was no suitable fertilizer substitute with the same quality” and that the mode of procurement would be direct purchase from its exclusive distributor, MPTC.

           While in the performance of duties, Lapid, et. al.  in conspiracy with Vasquez, Aquino and Abubakar, purchased the fertilizers in complete disregard of Republic Act No. 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act).

            The Ombudsman mentioned that “if the Provincial government of Pampanga undertook the purchase through public bidding, it could have purchased a fertilizer of equal or better quality than Macro-Micro Foliar Fertilizer at a lesser or competitive cost, thus allowing the Province of Pampanga to secure the best commercially available fertilizer product at the lowest price possible.”

            In determining overprice in the procurement, it was found that “the Macro-Micro Foliar Fertilizer is 1000% higher than the other fertilizers of the same kind.”      In addition, the manner and inordinate speed by which the transaction was consummated   a mere 12 days- manifested the partiality of Lapid, et. al. to D.A. Vasquez and MPTC

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