FERTILIZER SCAM HOUNDS MAYOR Ombudsman indicts Calinog’s Centena, 8 others for graft

BY ADRIAN STEWART CO and GLENDA SOLOGASTOA

Thursday, October 12, 2017

MANILA – The Office of the Ombudsman charged Calinog, Iloilo mayor Alex Centena with graft before the Sandiganbayan for the alleged anomalous purchase of liquid fertilizers in 2004 during the Arroyo administration.

According to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, Centena gave unwarranted benefits to Feshan Philippines Inc., supplier of 666 bottles of Bio Nature Liquid Fertilizers worth P999,000.

“The contract with Feshan was sealed through direct contracting and without complying first with the mandatory public bidding as required under procurement rules, therefore causing undue injury to the government,” said Carpio-Morales.

Centena was accused of violating Section 3(e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
His other co-accused were then municipal officials Valentin Sobretodo, Meriam Celeste, Crispino Castro, Jose Rex Casipe, Melanie Hilario, Rhoda Lyn Panizales, Jose Enriquez, and Anna Lerio Caspillo, and Feshan representative Jose Barredo Jr.
“I was told about the indictment. Ginapaabot na namon ina,” said Centena although he stressed he was yet to receive a copy of the complaint.

He expressed confidence that the Sandiganbayan would dismiss it.

“No problem. I have talked to a lot of lawyers. Similar complaints filed against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former Agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn ‘Joc-joc’ Bolante were dismissed,” said Centena.

The mayor insisted his approval of the fertilizer purchases was “ministerial man lang.”

“Kay ti pagsulod sa akon opisina kompleto na papeles, kaagi na sa BAC (Bids and Awards Committee). Sin-o ako nga indi magpirma kag magbayad kay ti suno sa akon nga BAC members, amo na ang instruction sang Department of Agriculture nga sundon nga sole distributor,” said Centena.

In August 2014, seven town employees were dismissed from government service for the alleged fertilizer fund scam. One was acquitted for lack of substantial evidence.

According to Centena, the case is now pending at the Court of Appeals.

It was the Task Force Abono, field investigation office of the Office of the Ombudsman that filed a complaint for dishonesty, grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service against the eight employees.

Subong nag-file naman ang Ombudsman sang another criminal (case), nadala na ako,” lamented the mayor.

Centena said it was unfair for the employees to be penalized; they merely followed what was instructed of them to do as stated in the memorandum of agreement (MOA), he stressed.

“I myself was hurt because of what happened to our employees. They were made like scapegoats (tapalan),” said Centena.

According to the mayor, it was in May 2004 when they received some P1-million worth of check from the Department of Agriculture and liquid fertilizers delivered by a distributor.

The said check served as payment for the liquid fertilizers, he said.

Centena said there was an instruction to follow the MOA which the involved employees, who were all members of the BAC, did.

The fertilizers were distributed by the municipal agriculturist to intended farmer beneficiaries including the mayor, himself a farmer.

Some of the named farmer beneficiaries claimed they had not received the fertilizers but according to Centena, “One hundred percent nahatag. Ako mismo ma-witness kay ako nakabaton man kay farmer man ako. Ma-resign ako kon mapamatud-an nga nagabinutig kami.” (With a report from GMA News/PN)