Sandiganbayan orders 90-day preventive suspension of North Cotabato governor

Published July 12, 2019, 2:20 PM

by Martin Sadongdong & Antonio Colina

By Czarina Ong Ki 

The Sandiganbayan Sixth Division has ordered the 90-day preventive suspension of North Cotabato Governor Nancy Catamco due to her pending charges involving the fertilizer fund scam case.

North Cotabato Governor Nancy Catamco  (Gov. Nancy Catamco FACEBOOK / MANILA BULLETIN)
North Cotabato Governor Nancy Catamco

The anti-graft court ruled on July 4 that Catamco be suspended under the provisions of Section 13 of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which states that “any incumbent public officer against whom any criminal prosecution under a valid information under this act…shall be suspended from office.”

Catamco, who was formerly congresswoman for the 2nd District of North Cotabato, was accused of violating Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 and Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code due to the reported anomalous purchase of P5 million worth of liquid fertilizer back in 2004.

She tried to thwart the suspension order by saying that there was no basis for it.

Catamco filed a compliance before the Sandiganbayan and said that they should await the petition for review she filed before the Supreme Court because it “poses a prejudicial question on the validity of the informations filed against her.”

However, the anti-graft court found her contention “without merit” and proceeded with her suspension.

For the graft charge, she was accused alongside former Poro Mayor Edgar Gadingan Rama, Vice Mayor Ronald Carcellar, Sangguniang

Bayan members Ruben Tan Estrera Jr., Gorgonta Gonzales, Sergio Zurita, Nilo Borlasa Gorgonio, Gregorio Dorog, and William Surbano.

Perzebros Company partner Pompey Perez was likewise charged with graft. As for the malversation charge, Catamco is facing both counts together with Rama and Perez.

Back in May 2004, the accused local officials reportedly gave undue advantage to Perzebros Company, in which Catamco and Perez are partners, when they procured 3,333 bottles of Vitacrop liquid organic fertilizers prized at P1,500 per bottle without public bidding and recommendation from the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC).

Rama reportedly acted on the basis of Sangguniang Bayan Resolution No. 2004-34, authorizing him to directly contract with Perzebros Company and approve the payment of P5 million.

However, the said fertilizer – which was bought as part of the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Regional Field Office VII Farm Inputs and Farm Implements Program (FIFIP) – was found overpriced by the Commission on Audit (COA) by at least P1,092 per bottle, or a total amount of P4,580,375.25.