Cagayan de Oro City

Ex-Cagayan de Oro mayor, 4 others in fertilizer fund mess get prison terms

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Ex-Cagayan de Oro mayor, 4 others in fertilizer fund mess get prison terms 

Former Cagayan de Oro congressman and mayor Constantino Jaraula talks to reporters in this file photo.

Mindanao Gold Star Daily

The Sandiganbayan holds former Cagayan de Oro mayor Constantino Jaraula liable for conspiring to let an unqualified group implement projects under a government program

MANILA, Philippines – The anti-graft court sentenced former Cagayan de Oro mayor Constantino Jaraula and four others to six to 10 years of imprisonment after finding them guilty of graft in connection with the misuse of fertilizer funds during the Arroyo administration.

Jaraula, who was a Cagayan de Oro congressman at the time, was also barred from holding any government position for life in a 77-page ruling signed by Associate Justices Arthur Malabaguio, Geraldine Faith Econg and Edgardo Caldona of the Sandiganbayan 2nd Division on July 8.

This wasn’t Jaraula’s first conviction. Three years ago, he and alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles were convicted of graft and malversation. Jaraula was also convicted of three counts of direct bribery.

The 2021 ruling found them guilty of earning at least P20.8 million from Jaraula’s pork barrel allocation through spurious nongovernmental organizations.

In 2018, Jaraula was charged with conspiring with DA officials to select an unqualified group to implement agricultural projects under the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani-Farm Input Farm Implements Program (GMA-FIFIP).

Along with Jaraula, Joel Rudinas, Ma. Reina Lumantas, and Claudia Artazo were also perpetually disqualified from holding government positions. Rudinas served as technical director, Lumantas as budget officer, and Artazo as accountant of the Department of Agriculture (DA) in Northern Mindanao at that time.

Rudinas, Lumantas, and Artazon were found criminally liable for processing and releasing funds to a nongovernmental organization that was unaccredited by the DA, and despite “patent defects and conspicuous irregularities” in a memorandum of agreement.

The Sandiganbayan also convicted Evelyn de Leon, president of the Philippine Social Development Foundation Incorporation (PSDFI), the private group which implemented the anomalous project in Cagayan de Oro.

They were ordered to pay the Cagayan de Oro city government P3 million, with 6% interest starting from the date of the final decision.

The anti-graft court, however, cleared one of the co-accused, former Cagayan de Oro city agriculturist Godofredo Bajas, due to insufficient evidence.

The Sandiganbayan also acquitted all of them on a separate charge of malversation of public funds due to lack of evidence.

Prosecutors noted that PSDFI’s office was in Taguig City, far from Cagayan de Oro, violating Commission on Audit Circular No. 96-003. 

Documents also showed PSDFI had no capacity to implement the project, and that it relied solely on donations, grants, and membership fees.

The court found evidence of “bad faith, partiality, and gross negligence” in the defendants’ actions. 

The court said Jaraula’s defense, that he relied on assurances from the late Rufo Chan, the DA regional director then, was unconvincing. Chan died in 2005.

“It runs counter to the ordinary experience of men that before one affixes his signature on the document, he must examine the contents of the same,” read a part of the decision.

Jaraula’s admission, the court said, showed negligence even as it noted that the ex-congressman “placed the blame on the late RD Chan who cannot testify for himself.” –

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