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3 ex-NABCOR officials get 8 years for graft

Elizabeth Marcelo - The Philippine Star
3 ex-NABCOR officials get 8 years for graft
In a 65-page decision promulgated on Feb. 23, the court’s Third Division has found former NABCOR human resources and administrative manager Encarnita Cristina Munsod, former accounting assistant Maria Ninez Guañizo and former general services unit head Romulo Relevo guilty of violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan has sentenced three officials of the now defunct state firm National Agribusiness Corp. (NABCOR) to up to eight years in prison over the allegedly anomalous procurement of P95.5 million worth of post-harvest facilities and equipment in 2007 to 2008.

In a 65-page decision promulgated on Feb. 23, the court’s Third Division has found former NABCOR human resources and administrative manager Encarnita Cristina Munsod, former accounting assistant Maria Ninez Guañizo and former general services unit head Romulo Relevo guilty of violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

They were sentenced to six up to eight years of imprisonment with the accessory penalty of absolute perpetual disqualification from holding public office.

The court, on the other hand, acquitted former NABCOR bids and awards committee members Jecyrose Butay-Ramos and Dennis Lozada as well as private respondent Elmer Baquiran, president of Agri Component Corp. (AgriCom), for failure of the prosecution panel of the Office of the Ombudsman to present sufficient evidence to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

Meanwhile, the court ordered the case against former NABCOR president Alan Javellana and former NABCOR accountants Roderica Bitancor and Ma. Julie Villaralvo-Johnson to be temporarily archived, as they remain at large. The court said this is without prejudice to the case’s revival upon their arrest or surrender.

Filed by the ombudsman in 2019, the graft case stemmed from NABCOR’s payment of a total of P95.52 million to AgriCom for the supposed delivery and installation of post-harvest facilities and equipment, including a rice mill, flat bed dryer, shed and storage, crop threshers, rice harvesters or reapers, digital moisture meter and platform weighing scale.

The ombudsman said the supply contract was awarded to AgriCom without the benefit of public bidding, in violation of RA 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

Furthermore, the ombudsman said there was an overpayment of about P12 million to AgriCom as some of the procured items were undelivered.

In convicting Munsod, Guañizo and Relevo, the Third Division said the prosecution was able to establish the conspiracy among the three NABCOR officials to award the supply contract as well as to release the payment to AgriCom with “undue haste.”

The Third Division noted that 50 percent or P49.9 million of the total contract price was even released to AgriCom through the disbursement vouchers (DV) signed by Munsod, despite lack of proof of prior delivery.

The court said the remaining balance was eventually released to AgriCom through additional DVs signed and prepared by Munsod, Guañizo and Relevo “despite lack of proof of timely and complete deliveries.”

“[The] entire transaction was conducted with undue haste or in a span of seven days and that the amount of P49.950 million of public funds was released without prior delivery of the equipment and facilities. Furthermore, in just five months, the whole amount was paid to AgriCom, without any clear proof that complete delivery was made and full and proper documentation of the acceptance by the beneficiaries were shown,” the Third Division said.

“Thus, this Court cannot simply brush aside these glaring irregularities especially since a substantial amount of public funds were involved,” it added.

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