MANILA, Philippines – The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan has upheld the graft charges against former Butuan City mayor Leonides Theresa Plaza over the allegedly anomalous use of fertilizer funds in 2004.
In a 13-page resolution, the Sandiganbayan’s 3rd Division said there was “substantial basis to support the finding of probable cause” in the case against Plaza and co-accused Angelo Calo, Salvador Satorre, Adulfo Llagas, Arthur Castro, Rodolfo Evanoso, Bebiano Calo, Danilo Furia, and Melita Loida Galbo.
“At any rate, after a careful reassessment of the records of these cases, the Court maintains its finding that probable cause exists to justify the issuance of warrants of arrest against accused Plaza, along with the other accused,” the court said.
The former Butuan mayor had cited lack of probable cause and the alleged unreasonable delay by the Ombudsman in the conduct of the preliminary investigation.
But the court found merit in the prosecution’s argument that the cases required the lengthy review of documents and involved numerous lawmakers.
It added that Plaza’s rights to due process were not violated, despite the 5-year period it took the Ombudsman to file the information in court since the complaint was filed in April 2011.
“The court finds that there was no unreasonable or oppressive delay to speak of in the conduct of the preliminary investigation. The delay was reasonable being part of the ordinary process of justice,” it said.
The case stemmed from the allegedly anomalous P5-million contract awarded to liquid fertilizer supplier Feshan Philippines Incorporated, in April 2004. The deal involved the delivery of 3,333 bottles of liquid organic fertilizer, priced at P1,500 per liter bottle.
Plaza and 8 other city officials were accused of conspiring with other respondents in giving undue preference to Feshan.
The Ombudsman said the transaction was suspicious because the Notice of Canvass, the supplier’s reply to the notice, the purchase order, and the issuance of checks for partial payment were all dated April 22, 2004.
Graft investigators also noted that the supplier was based in Manila, with no office in Butuan City. They also found signs of overpricing, after a canvass of prices for liquid fertilizer showed two other brands were available in the market, offering liquid fertilizer priced at P120 and P125 per liter. – Rappler.com