Calinog mayor faces graft charge over fertilizer scam

Mayor Alex Centena

THE Office of the Ombudsman slapped Mayor Alex Centena of Calinog, Iloilo with a graft case before the Sandiganbayan relative to the alleged anomalous purchase of liquid fertilizers in 2004 amounting to P999,000.

Ombudsman indicted Centena and nine other municipal officials for violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The anti-graft agency said the accused gave unwarranted benefits to Freshan Philippines Inc. for the purchase of 666 bottles of Bio Nature Liquid Fertilizers.

Also indicted were Valentin Sobretodo, former municipal treasurer; Meriam Celeste, former acting municipal accountant; Crispino Castro, former municipal agriculturist; Lourdes Coronado, former budget officer; Jose Rex Casipe, former municipal supply officer; and Melanie Hilario, Rhoda Lyn Panizales, Jose Edeso Enriquez, and Anna Lerio Caspillo, former bids and awards committee (BAC) members.

They were charged of allegedly conspiring in using direct contracting and failing to comply with the mandatory public bidding under Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

Freshan representative Jose Barredo Jr. is the only private respondent.

Each respondent was recommended to post the P30,000 bail bond.

The fertilizer scam erupted during the time of former Department of Agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn “Jocjoc” Bolante under the administration of former president now Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Mayor Centena said he is confident that the case will be dismissed.

While he has yet to receive an official copy of the indictment, the mayor said he will answer the charge.

He stressed that his employees only followed the instruction of DA and that he only performed his ministerial duty of signing the contract.

“When it reached my office, the documents are already complete as they have passed the BAC,” he said.

He said he has talked to several lawyers who assured him that the case will be dismissed.

Last year, the Sandiganbayan cleared Bolante of the plunder case filed against him relative to the fertilizer scam.

“Ma-dismiss man na guro,” Centena said.

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