By Czarina Nicole Ong-Ki
The Sandiganbayan Second Division has acquitted former Quezon City 4th District Rep. Nanette Daza and several others of their graft and technical malversation charges involving the 2004 fertilizer fund scam.
Daza was charged with violations of Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Article 220 of the Revised Penal Code or Technical Malversation alongside several former employees of the Department of Agriculture (DA).
They are Regional Executive Director Dennis Araullo and Regional Field Unit IV members Juvylee Obice, Raymundo Braganza, Grover Dino, Dory Iranzo, Abelardo Bragas, Felix Ramos, Ofelia Montilla, Gregorio Sangalang, and Balagtas Torres. Private individual and LCV Design and Fabrication President Remus Villanueva also stands charged for the same offenses.
From April 15 to November 17, 2004, Daza made letter and purchase requests to the DA, which then purchased from LCV Design one shredding machine, one Hammermill, one unit Pelletizer, and one unit Tornado brand shredder chipper amounting to P3 million and chargeable against the Farm Input Fund for the Ginintuang Masaganag Ani Program of the DA.
The purchase was made without the conduct of public bidding, therefore giving undue advantage to LCV Design. At the same time, the prosecution said the purchase is contrary to the purpose for which the funds were allocated.
In its ruling, the anti-graft court first stressed that the prosecution failed to show how Villanueva, a private individual, acted in conspiracy with the accused government officials and influenced them to purchase from his company. Because of this, the case against him had to fail.
As for the remaining public officials, the prosecution cited that they resorted to direct contracting even though LCV Design did not have an approved patent or the exclusive right to distribute the subject equipment.
However, the court ruled that direct contracting was acceptable in this case. “The accused showed that the equipment procured are proprietary equipment as these were inventions owned, exclusively manufactured and distributed by LCV Design,” the decision read.
“Thus, there is no unwarranted benefit, preference or advantage given to the corporation as the equipment procured cannot be bought from other sources,” it added.
The prosecution likewise believed that the fund used to purchase the equipment was not appropriated by law or ordinance, and said that these were not among those allowed by the Ginintuang Masaganag Ani Program of the DA. It also stressed that the 4th District of Quezon City, represented by Daza, should not have been included as a recipient of the fund.
However, the court said there was no proof presented that would show the specific law or ordinance appropriating the fund.
“A review of the 2003 General Appropriations Act of the DA shows that it does not contain any specific appropriation for…the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani Program as claimed by the Information charging the accused,” the decision read.
At the same time, the prosecution also failed in presenting convincing evidence on the allegation of conspiracy among the accused public officers in both cases. Daza’s letters of request were shown to be part of the procedure that the DA followed in the disbursement of the subject fund. “The alleged abuse or misuse in her legislative position cannot be proven by the letters in itself,” the decision stressed.
The court has ordered that the Hold Departure Order issued against the accused be released in light of their acquittal. The 39-page decision was written by Associate Justice Michael Frederick Musngi with the concurrence of Second Division Chairperson Oscar Herrera Jr. and Associate Justice Lorifel Pahimna.