Sandigan junks scam raps vs ex-lawmaker

Elizabeth Marcelo (The Philippine Star) - March 12, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines -  Another set of fertilizer fund scam cases was dismissed by the Sandiganbayan due to the “inordinate delay” by the Office of the Ombudsman in its investigation.

In a nine-page resolution dated March 3, released to the media yesterday, the court’s Special Second Division ruled to dismiss the charges of graft, malversation of public funds and falsification of public documents filed by the ombudsman against former Parañaque congressman Eduardo Zialcita and four other respondents in February 2016.

Named as Zialcita’s co-accused in the cases were former Department of Agriculture Regional Field Unit IV director Dennis Araullo, former DA regional technical director Gregorio Sangalang, former DA regional accountant Raymundo Braganza and private respondent Margie Luz, president of the non-government organization Gabaymasa Development Foundation Inc. (GDFI).

The cases stemmed from the alleged misuse of P5 million worth of funds allotted to Zialcita’s district for the implementation of the DA’s Farm Inputs and Farm Implements Program.

The ombudsman said full payment was made to GDFI in March 2004 despite the non-delivery of the fertilizers and other agricultural items. The GDFI was also not accredited as a supplier and should have been disqualified.

Based on court records, the complaint against Zialcita and the four other respondents was filed by the ombudsman’s field investigation team Task Force Abono before the central office on May 2, 2011.

It was on June 20, 2013 when the Ombudsman Special Panel on Fertilizer Fund Scam issued a resolution finding probable cause to file the cases in court against the accused. It was only on June 3, 2015 when Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales approved the resolution.

The anti-graft agency formally filed the cases against the accused before the Sandiganbayan on Feb. 16, 2016.

The Sandiganbayan had earlier dismissed the cases against several former lawmakers allegedly involved in the P723-million fertilizer fund scam because of the inordinate delay on the part of the ombudsman.

Among the recently dismissed cases were those against former Cebu congressmen Antonio Cuenco and Antonio Yapha Jr., former Palawan congressman and incumbent Games and Amusement Board chairman Abraham Kahlil Mitra and former senator Lito Lapid.

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