The Sandiganbayan has set the trial starting April 14 of the graft and malversation charges filed against former Mayor Edgar G. Rama of Poro, Cebu and four other persons on the alleged irregular purchase of fertilizers worth P5 million in 2005.
Trial was set after the anti-graft court dismissed the motion filed by Rama and his group to reconsider the denial of their first motion to junk the charges filed against them.
Aside from Rama, also to undergo trial are bids and awards committee (BAC) members William Surbano, Gorgonia Gonzales, Sergio Zurita, and Nilo Gorgonio.
In their motion for reconsideration, Rama and his co-accused reiterated that the dismissal by the Supreme Court (SC) of the charges filed against their co-accused, North Cotabato Gov. Nancy Catamco and Perzebros Company representative Pompey Perez, must also apply to them.
Rama and his group pointed out that all of them were accused of the same sets of facts and circumstances, there was only one preliminary investigation, and they were all charged with the same information (criminal charge sheet) on a conspiracy theory.
But the Sandiganbayan, in a resolution written by Associate Justice Sarah Jane T. Fernandez, said the July 28, 2020 SC decision ordered the dismissal of the charges against Catamco and Perez on violation of their constitutional right to a speedy disposition of cases.
“It (the SC decision) was never intended to apply to the other accused as well,” the anti-graft court stressed.
The prosecution charged Rama and his co-accused with giving undue advantage to Perzebros Company, in which Catamco and Perez are business partners, in the purchase of 3,333 bottles of Vitacrop liquid organic fertilizers at P1,500 per bottle without public bidding and recommendation from the 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 fertilizers — which were bought as part of the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Regional Field Office VII Farm Inputs and Farm Implements Program (FIFIP) — were found overpriced by the Commission on Audit (COA) by at least P1,092 per bottle, or a total of P4,580,375.25.
Associate Justices Karl B. Miranda and Kevin Narce B. Vivero concurred in the resolution.