Ombudsman clears North Cotabato governor

DAVAO CITY – The Ombudsman cleared North Cotabato Governor Nancy Catamco in connection with the 2004 fertilizer scam involving a company she once headed and the town of Lazi in Siquijor.

In a 14-page resolution issued on January 27, which Catamco's lawyers provided to Rappler on Wednesday, the Ombudsman ordered the deletion of Catamco's name from Criminal Case No. SB 190CRM-0100 for violation of the anti-graft law filed against her, her former husband Pompey Perez, then Lazi mayor Orville Fua, now a Siquijor board member, Municipal Accountant Ana Marie Sumalpong-Monte, Municipal Treasurer Rose Marie Villacampa Tomogsoc, Municipal Budget Officer Iva Ypil Marchan, Municipal Engineer Nutalio Bungcawel Jumayan, Private Secretary Sue Agnes Castillon, and Municipal Planning and Development Coordinator Teodoro Jumadla, Jr.

Catamco was Perzebros head, a company owned by Perez, as general manager.

Based on the facts of the case, Perzebros initially got six checks amounting to P5.2 million from the Lazi town government on May 6, 2014, representing 65% of the cost of foliar fertilizer the company would be delivering.

Then on December 17, 2014, the Lazi town government issued 3 more checks to Perzebros totaling P2.8 million.

But the Ombudsman took notice that the initial payments were made even before the Lazi government made a purchase request for the fertilizer; before a notice to “bidders” had been made; before an abstract of quotation had been issued and long before Perzebros was identified as the “lone bidder.”

It was only in January 2005 when the documents were made, in time for the delivery of the second payment of P2.8 million for Perzebros, the document showed.

It was also around the time when Perzebros delivered all the fertilizers, numbering 1,866 bottles or at the cost of 2,786.70 each.

In September 2019, the Ombudsman ordered a preliminary investigation of the case and had affirmed that charges should be brought against the accused, including Catamco.

Catamco contested the initial resolution in the aftermath of the investigation and requested a reinvestigation.

In the subsequent Ombudsman resolution, signed by Assistant Special Prosecutors Rayman Rafael and Tirso Vargas, which cleared her, the anti-graft body said that there was "no other proof on record that even tends to show that Catamco personally participated in the transaction, or otherwise authorized the participation of Perzebros."

“The circumstances that the Articles of Partnership named Perez as a partner and its General Manager alone does not suffice as a prima facie evidence to support the finding that a probable cause exists against her, much less that she conspired with here co-respondents,” the resolution, approved by Ombudsman Samuel Martires, said.

“I feel so happy and humbled with the resolution of the Ombudsman. It’s a perfect advance Valentine’s gift. Thanks for all your prayers and support,” Catamco said in a Facebook post on Wednesday.

Aside from the Lazi case, Catamco faces a similar case along with Poro, Cebu Mayor Edgar Rama. –