Sandigan clears North Cotabato governor of graft rap

Published January 28, 2021, 12:19 PM

by Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

The Sandiganbayan Fourth Division has dismissed the graft charge of North Cotabato Gov. Nancy Catamco in relation to the reportedly irregular purchase of fertilizers in 2005.

Sandiganbayan (MANILA BULLETIN)
Sandiganbayan (MANILA BULLETIN)

Catamco, who used to go by the name Nancy Perez of Perezbros Co., was charged for violating Section 3(e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act together with former Lazi, Siquijor Mayor Orville Fua and seven others.

On Jan. 7, 2005, Fua and several other local officials were accused of conspiring with representatives of Perezbros when they purchased 1,866 liters of Vitacrop Liquid Organic Fertilizers at P1,500 per bottle for a total of P2,687,040.

However, the prosecution said the transaction was attended by several violations of RA 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act and its Implementing Rules and Regulations.

In a resolution dated Jan. 19, the anti-graft court granted the Omnibus Motion for Reconsideration of the Resolution dated Nov. 10, 2020 filed by Catamco.

The resolution denied the Manifestation with Motion for Leave of Court to Withdraw Information filed by the prosecution concerning Catamco.

For the court, the charge against Catamco should not be withdrawn since she was the designated general manager of Perezbros. The prosecution has also maintained the theory of conspiracy between the company and officials and employees of the municipality of Lazi.

In her Omnibus Motion, Catamco argued that the anti-graft court erred when it maintained her indictment despite the prosecution’s finding that Catamco did not perform a single overt act in pursuance of a criminal intent to commit the alleged crime.

The fact that she was the general manager of Perezbros, according to Catamco, cannot be considered an overt act in this case since management of the affairs of a legitimate business are equivocal in nature and not illegal per se.

After considering Catamco’s arguments, the anti-graft court is constrained to reverse its earlier resolution.

“The emphasis given by the accused on the absence of overt acts to prove her participation in the alleged conspiracy to commit the offense charged is a matter which this Court previously failed to give ample consideration in resolving the prosecution’s Manifestation,” the Sandiganbayan said.

“A re-evaluation of the stance taken by the Court, however, calls for a reversal of its previous ruling, especially in the light of jurisprudential tenets on circumstantial evidence and its requisites,” it added.

The case against Catamco has been ordered dismissed, and the hold departure order against her was likewise ordered lifted and set aside.

The seven-page resolution was penned by chairperson Alex Quiroz and concurred in by Associate Lorifel Pahimna and Bayani Jacinto.