By Czarina Nicole Ong
The Office of the Ombudsman has filed yet another case against a late politician. This time around, the late Ilocos Norte 1st District Rep. Roque Ravelo Ablan Jr. has been charged with four graft and four malversation charges before the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division due to his involvement in the fertilizer fund scam back in 2004.
In the charge sheets filed by Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer III Rachel T. Cariaga-Favila, Ablan, who passed away on March 26, 2018, was charged with violating Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act as well as Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code.
He was charged alongside Department of Agriculture (DA) Regional Field Unit 1 officials – Regional Executive Director Reinero Bermio Belarmino Jr., Chief Administrative Officer Francisco Cabuloy Casil, Accountant III Avelina Osorio Soriano, Administrative Officer V Lourdes Valdez Gonzales, Supervising Agriculturist Jonathan Bugaoan, and Supervising Agriculturist Maribel Cabradilla.
Meanwhile, Cel-Ann General Merchandise proprietor Editha Jacaban was likewise slapped with all four graft charges.
On March 2, 2004, the accused were faulted for conspiring with Cel-Ann General Merchandise when they approved the procurement of 635 bottles of Fast Tracts Grow Foliar Fertilizer and 13 units of Quan MY Backpack Fertilizer Sprayer even without the conduct of public bidding.
They paid P1,500 per liter for the Fast Tracts or a total amount of P952,500 even when other commercial liquid fertilizers, with equal or higher micronutrient content, was readily available at the time for only P165 per liter. As a result, they overspent P847,725.
They next made a purchase of 635 bottles of Fast Track Grow Foliar Fertilizer and seven units of Quan MY Backpack Fertilizer Sprayer for the same amounts, this time totalling to P952,500. The amount they overspent was once again P847,725.
The next purchase was for 677 bottles of Fast Track Grow Foliar Fertilizer and 33 units of Quan MY Backpack Fertilizer Sprayer. The purchase amounted to P1,015,500, with an overprice of P903,795.
Lastly, they procured 33 bottles of Fast Track Grow Foliar Fertilizer which totalled to P49,500. The overprice amount was P44,055, which was “in violation of the provisions of R.A. 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act,” the charge sheet read.
The accused local officials have to pay P280,000 for their provisional liberty, with P30,000 bail bond for each graft charge and P40,000 for each malversation charge. Meanwhile, private individual Jacaban has to pay P120,000.