Graft charges vs Lapid, 5 others for overpriced fertilizer

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Lito Lapid has been charged with graft over the purchase of allegedly overpriced fertilizer in 2004 when he was still governor of Pampanga.

Lapid, who is wrapping up his term in the Senate, is running for mayor of Angeles City in Pampanga. His son, Mark Lapid, who was also former governor of Pampanga, is running for senator under the ruling Liberal Party.

Also accused of violating the anti-graft and corrupt practices act are Pampanga provincial accountant Benjamin de Guzman Yuzon and provincial treasurer Vergel Baltazar Yabut; Ma. Victoria Aquino-Abubakar and Leolita Aquino, incorporators of Malayan Pacific Trading Corporation (MPTC); and Dexter Alexander Vasquez, proprietor of DA Vasquez Macro-Micro Fertilizer Resources.

The Ombudsman said that, in May 2004, Pampanga officials purchased 3,880 liters of Macro-Micro Foliar Fertilizer without public bidding, entering into a transaction "manifestly and gross disadvantageous" to the provincial government.

MPTC received P4.47 million for fertilizer priced at P1,250 per liter. The Ombudsman said this was overpriced by at least P1,100 per liter, or a total of P4.268 million.

Ombudsman prosecutors also noted the "inordinate speed" by which the transaction was completed. A purchase order was made on May 24, 2004, just 12 days after Vasquez submitted a price quotation. Full payment to MPTC was made on May 26, 2004.

The Ombudsman also noted that Vasquez applied for product registration with Fertilizer Pesticide Authority on August 15, 2005, after the May 2004 transaction.

The Ombudsman also pointed out other "irregularities and instances of fraud," such as Lapid's certification that there was no suitable substitute for the fertilizer "in order to unlawfully resort to direct purchase despite the availability of a suitable substitute offered at a much lower price in the locality."

Omar Sagadal, assistant special prosecutor, set the bail bond at P30,000 each. –