By Czarina Nicole Ong
The Sandiganbayan Second Division has allowed Lanao del Norte 2nd District Rep. Abdullah D. Dimaporo to challenge the evidence against him in his graft and malversation through falsification case involving the P5 million fertilizer fund scam.
He was accused of violating Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Article 217 in relation to Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code for the reportedly anomalous purchase of P5 million worth of Saka Organic Fertilizer in 2004.
Dimaporo filed a demurrer to evidence since he believes that the prosecution was unable to satisfy its burden of proving that he committed the crimes beyond reasonable doubt. He said that the prosecution failed to present two of the four sets documents that he allegedly falsified in order to facilitate the malversation of public funds.
At the same time, no witness was presented before the court to give any context at all to the distribution list of farmer-beneficiaries. As for the acceptance report, he argued that it is irrelevant since it only proved that the delivery and distribution of fertilizers were made.
Edwin Canios, state auditor V of the Commission on Audit (COA), admitted in his testimony that the report on the initial sampling of farmer-beneficiaries has shown that they received the fertilizers.
In its five-page ruling, the Sandiganbayan noted that the prosecution presented three witnesses – Department of Agriculture (DA) Administrative Officer V Ma. Reina Lumantes, Chief of the Fertilizer Regulation Division of the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority Julieta B. Lansangan, and Canios.
But “after a careful review of the records of the case and the evidence of the prosecution, the Court is inclined to grant the oral motion of accused Dimaporo in order to adequately provide the defense an opportunity to test the sufficiency of the evidence presented by the prosecution and to determine if the same is enough to warrant a conviction,” the resolution read.
The five-page resolution was penned by Associate Justice Michael Frederick Musngi with the concurrence of Chairperson Oscar Herrera Jr. and Associate Justice Lorifel Pahimna.
From April to December 2004, Dimaporo reportedly released P5 million worth of government funds to Lanao Foundation Inc. (LFI), a non-government organization. This was for the purchase of farm inputs and farm implements pursuant to the farm input and farm implement program of the DA despite LFI’s insufficient funds to operate the program.
Dimaporo and his co-accused were also indicted for allegedly falsifying undated inspection reports, acceptance reports, physical and financial status reports, and the distribution lists to farmer-beneficiaries, making it appear that 10,000 bags of Saka Organic Fertilizer were delivered.