By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Bohol Rep. Arthur Yap expressed confidence on Monday that the Office of the Ombudsman would also dismiss the graft charges filed against him in connection with the alleged questionable procurement of fertilizers worth P46.45 million.
He sought the dismissal of the charges in the Sandiganbayan after the Ombudsman has dismissed the graft charges and procurement law violation against him which stemmed from the alleged lack of bidding for the purchase of fertilizers in Mindanao in 2003 during his stint as National Food Administration (NFA) Authority.
“With the cases for the procurement in Visayas and Mindanao having been dismissed by the Ombudsman, I am confident and hopeful that the Ombudsman will also carefully review the case they filed against me at the Sandiganbayan involving the procurement in Luzon and thereafter move for its dismissal,” Yap said in a statement.
Yap and former Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo Jr. have been charged with five counts of violations of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for supposedly skipping the competitive bidding process in the purchase of the fertilizers in July and August 2003.
According to the anti-graft body, Lorenzo and Yap conspired with Tomas Guibani, the former representative of the Philippine Phosphate Fertilizer Corp. (Philphos), to grant unwarranted benefits, advantage and preference to Philphos, by directing the Regional Bids and Awards Committee of NFA Regions 1 to 5 and the National Capital Region (NCR) to conduct procurement of 92,158 bags of fertilizer
through the negotiated mode, instead of competitive bidding.
“The Luzon case involves similar transactions with the same set of facts and evidence as the ones in the Visayas and Mindanao. If the cases in the Visayas and Mindanao were dismissed, there should be no reason why the case in Luzon, should prosper,” Yap explained.
For lack of probable cause, the charges for violation of Section 3(e) and 3(g) of R.A.3019, as amended, and Section 65.1 of Republic Act 9184 were dismissed by the anti-graft body in a six-page order penned by Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer Millicent N. Reyes and approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.
The procurement was pursuant to the April 30, 2003, Memorandum of the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA), Cito Lorenzo, which authorized Yap to enter into a negotiated procurement of the fertilizers for its timely distribution to the farmers in time for the wet season of May to October 2003. According to Yap’s camp, he followed and implemented the aforementioned directive of the DA Secretary with accredited FPA suppliers all invited to join the tender.
Ombudsman prosecutors charged Yap for allegedly giving unwarranted benefits to Philphos by directing the bids and awards committees in Mindanao to purchase fertilizer through negotiated procurement, instead of competitive bidding.
However, as noted in the said Order, the procurement transpired before the effectivity of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Government Procurement Reform Act (R.A. 9184). Hence, procuring entities may continue adopting the procurement procedures, rules, and regulations provided in E.O. 40 and its IRR.
It was noted in the Order that “the rule applicable during the subject procurement allows negotiated procurement of goods whenever the goods are to be used in connection with a project or activity which cannot be delayed without causing detriment to public service.”
In dismissing the charges against Yap, the Ombudsman ruled that “There is nothing manifestly wrong or damaging in following the said directive that was aimed at a timely distribution of the fertilizers to the farmers. Neither does obedience to it constitute bad judgement or conscious indifference to consequences insofar as other persons may be affected. Consequently, Yap may not be said to have acted with manifest partiality, evident bad faith or inexcusable negligence.”