North Cotabato lawmaker posts bail over alleged fertilizer scam

MANILA, Philippines – North Cotabato 2nd District Representative Nancy Catamco posted bail at the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan after she was charged with two counts of funds malversation and one count of graft over a P5-million deal under the alleged fertilizer fund scam.

Catamco, her former husband Pompey Perez, and Edgar Rama, who was the former mayor of Poro, Cebu, each posted bail bonds of P110,000.

Sandiganbayan 6th Division Associate Justices Karl Miranda, Kevin Narce Vivero, and Sarah Jane Fernandez approved that their bail on May 22, then recalled their arrest warrants, which were released May 7.

What were they accused of? The 3 allegedly conspired in delivering supposedly overpriced fertilizers to the local government of Poro, Cebu, as part of the Department of Agriculture's Farm Inputs and Farm Implements Program in 2004.

Perzebros Company – the group owned by Catamco and her husband before their separation – which delivered the fertilizers, allegedly sold 3,333 bottles of Vitacrop liquid organic fertilizers with an unreasonable markup of P1,092 per bottle despite the lack of public bidding.

If the bottles were really overpriced, excess payments would stand at P4.58 million.

In addition, the Office of the Ombudsman also revealed that the company had clinched the deal despite just being barely two months old then.

Their defense: According to Catamco, who was then a private individual who represented Perzebros, their company delivered the fertilizers through an older company: BountyGrow.

"Bounty Grow has long been engaged in manufacturing foliar fertilizers. The Perzebros filed an application for a certification from the Fertilizers and Pesticides Authority (FPA). It's just that the FPA approved our certification only on April 28, 2004. But the thing was, we had the delivery. It was not a ghost delivery," Catamco was quoted by SunStar as saying.

BountyGrow, however, is owned by Catamco's sister in General Santos City.

Addressing the alleged absence of public bidding, her information officer Jun Obella passed the blame to the local government of Poro. At the time of the deal, Edgar Rama was vice mayor of the Cebu town.

"It was the (local government unit) of Poro town that led the bidding, and Catamco was just an observer, she, being a supplier only," Obello was quoted by the Manila Bulletin as saying. –