By Czarina Nicole Ong
Agusan del Sur Governor Adolph Edward Plaza and several other local officials have finally been arraigned before the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division on Friday in relation to their graft and malversation due to their reported involvement in the fertilizer fund scam.
Plaza and his co-accused refused to enter plea for their charges of 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, also known as malversation.
This is because Plaza has a pending petition for a temporary restraining order before the Supreme Court, while his co-accused refused to honor the charges against them. As a result, the anti-graft court motu propio entered a not guilty plea for them.
Plaza was charged with graft alongside Executive Assistant IV Jesusimo Lamela Ronquillo, Assistant Provincial Administrator Cristobal Aboy Cellan Jr., Provincial Department Head Maximo Mongcal Gegato Jr., Assistant Department Head of the Provincial Accounting Office Niceto Ranario, Provincial Treasurer Celsa Sanchez, Security Agent I Andre Bustamante, Supply Officer II Arnold Calang, Storekeeper II of the Provincial Engineering Office Sofronio Raro, Assistant Provincial Treasurer Villa Udad, Budget Officer IV Emmanuel Pedrera Quiban, Assistant Department Head of the Provincial Engineering Office Pamela Yucosing, Provincial Government Assistant Department Head Domingo Castro Jr., and Executive Assistant IV Roberto Moreno Natividad.
As for his malversation charge, he is facing it together with Ronquillo, Cellan, Gegato, Ranario, Sanchez, Udad, Quiban, Yucosing, Castro, and Natividad. Private individual and Feshan Philippines Inc. representative Lucio Derequito Lapidez is charged in both counts.
They are all incumbent local officials, with the exception of Quiban. All of them were present during the arraignment with the exception of Lapidez.
Their case conference has been scheduled on April 12, while pretrial will begin on May 20 at 1:30 in the afternoon.
In the charge sheet earlier filed by Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer III Charmaine Ruiz, Plaza and the other local officials reportedly conspired with one another when they allowed Feshan to take P9,908,100 worth of public funds in exchange for the purchase of several bottles of fertilizers.
The payment was released despite the absence of public bidding and the failure to comply with the procedures and conditions for direct contracting. Feshan also failed to post a performance security.
The local officials also signed the documents leading to the disbursement of public funds despite discrepancies regarding the contents of the delivered fertilizers and their failure to conduct periodic monitoring and evaluation to ascertain the proper utilization of funds.