Fertilizer scam: Ex-Iloilo town mayor gets 10 years
Elizabeth Marcelo (The Philippine Star) - December 12, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Another former mayor has been convicted in connection with the fertilizer fund scam.

Mariano Malones of Maasin, Iloilo was sentenced to up to 10 years in prison after he was found guilty of violating Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, the Sandiganbayan’s Seventh Division said in a 48-page decision promulgated on Nov. 8 and obtained by reporters yesterday.

Former municipal accountant Cecilio Montefrio and acting municipal accountant Jimmy Borra were meted the same penalty aside from perpetual disqualification from holding public office.

Filed by the Office of the Ombudsman in 2016, the case stemmed from the municipal government’s purchase from April to August 2004 of 666 bottles of liquid fertilizer at P1,500 each or a total of P999,999.

Graft probers said the supply contract was awarded to Feshan Philippines Inc. owned by a certain Jose Barredo Jr., through direct contracting instead of public bidding.

The ombudsman dropped the case against Barredo after he turned state witness.

Malones and his co-accused identified a specific brand name when a suitable substitute available in the market cost only P150 per bottle, the court said.

“It was... unconventional that the municipality of Maasin immediately brushed aside... public bidding... and resorted to an alternative mode of procurement without any duly approved BAC (bids and awards committee) resolution,” the court said.

The seventh division gave weight to the testimony of Barredo that he and Malones were in talks for the award of the contract to Feshan even before the municipal government and the Department of Agriculture signed a memorandum of agreement for a P1-million grant to implement the DA’s Ginintuang Masagana Ani Farm Input and Farm Implements Program (FIFIP).

Barredo admitted that he gave Malones a 30 percent commission in exchange for the award of the contract to Feshan. He said he handed the money to the former mayor at a hotel near a Landbank branch in Iloilo.

The court said Montefrio and Borra acted as conduits of Malones when they prepared the disbursement vouchers, which paved the way for the release of payment to Feshan despite spurious supporting documents and the irregularity of the transaction. 

The FIFIP was aimed at extending assistance to poor farmers. However, the P723 million alloted for the program was allegedly diverted to the campaign kitty of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Arroyo and the alleged mastermind in the anomaly, former DA undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante, were cleared of the charges due to insufficient evidence.

Several  former mayors were convicted of graft over the anomaly.

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