Duterte said he was happy to see the former agriculture chief, whom he had not talked with for a long time.
Duterte considered Cito Lorenzo as DA chief
Edith Regalado (The Philippine Star) - September 9, 2019 - 12:00am

DAVAO CITY , Philippines — President Duterte had once considered former agriculture chief Luis Lorenzo Jr. to assume the same post . The Chief Executive was scouting for possible members of his Cabinet at the time.

“So to the Lorenzos, this is a good move. Sir, I have a new secretary of agriculture. And… I was really considering you. I just could not find you. In previous years, you were everywhere. Be it in the hotels and the...,” the President said during the grand opening of the Dusit Thani Hotel Davao, which the Lorenzos own.

Duterte said he was happy to see the former agriculture chief, whom he had not talked with for a long time.

“Anyway, let me just say that I’m very happy to see you and I’d like to give you a handshake to make up for the ano, the delayed opportunity to maybe have a talk… the things that you’d like to know,” he added.

 The President said since he could not find Lorenzo, he instead tapped former North Cotabato governor Emmanuel Piñol to be agriculture chief until the latter was replaced by William Dar. Piñol has assumed as chair of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA).

“So I settled for somebody who was a farm boy and huwag mo lang sabihin sa kanya (just don’t tell him).  Without being really offensive to anybody, but you know how are the Ilonggos, they (have all the solutions to our lives),” he said, referring to Piñol.

 He recalled that back then, Piñol promised to make the country a rice exporter within the first year of his term—a promise that, he said, was never realized.

Lorenzo, Bohol Gov. Arthur Yap (then the National Food Authority administrator) and Tomas Guibani of Philippine Phosphate Fertilizer Corp. (Philpos) are facing graft charges for an alleged anomalous procurement of P46.45 million worth of fertilizer in 2003.                  

Based on the charge sheets filed by the Office of the Ombudsman in April last year, Lorenzo and Yap allegedly conspired in awarding to Philpos five contracts—through a negotiated procurement instead of a public bidding as required by Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act—for the supply of 92,158 bags of fertilizer to NFA regional offices.

The ombudsman said Lorenzo and Yap gave “unwarranted benefit, advantage and preference” to Philpos by issuing a guideline which stated that the bidding for the Luzon-wide procurement shall be held at the NFA Central Office in Manila.

The ombudsman said the respondents amended the original guidelines which stated that only the suppliers with depots located within or adjacent to the procuring NFA region can participate in the bidding. It added that Lorenzo’s and Yap’s issuances and directives were meant “to ensure the award to Philpos.”

The Sandiganbayan had earlier denied Lorenzo and Yap’s motion to dismiss the cases on the ground of the supposed inordinate delay in the ombudsman’s investigation before filing the cases in court.

Lorenzo, Yap and Guibani have each posted P150,000 in bail bond.  – With Elizabeth Marcelo 

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