Ombudsman links Cuenco and Yapha to pork scam

By: Izobelle T. Pulgo, Jose Santino S. Bunachita July 14,2016 - 10:27 PM

Former Cebu City south district representative Antonio Cuenco and former representative Antonio Yapha Jr. of Cebu’s third district may face trial after the Ombudsman found that they endorsed an unqualified non-government organization (NGO) to undertake a government project in 2004 using their combined Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) amounting to P6 million.

Cuenco has filed a Motion for Reconsideration (MR) on the Ombudsman’s decision while Yapha could not be reached by Cebu Daily News for comment.

On its webpage yesterday, the Office of the Ombudsman announced its 19-page resolution finding probable cause to charge Cuenco and Yapha for violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The two former Cebu representatives were found to have engaged the services of Kasosyo Foundation, Inc. last 2004 without the benefit of public bidding and despite the NGO’s lack of experience.

Their co-accused, former Department of Agriculture (DA) Regional Executive Director Eduardo Lecciones was also charged with two counts of graft as project implementor of the PDAF-related projects of Yapha and Cuenco, which were allegedly overpriced.

“[Respondents] performed overt acts of signing endorsement letters, entered into a MOA and approved payments to Kasosyo, all designed to bring fruition the sole objective of making Kasosyo as the project partner which would undertake the farm inputs/farm implements projects,” the Ombudsman resolution said.

The anti-graft office found that in 2004, Cuenco and Yapha endorsed Kasosyo Foundation to Lecciones for the purchase of 4,000 bottles of “overpriced” liquid fertilizers at P1,500/bottle using their PDAF funds for a total project cost of P6 million.

“Despite Kasosyo’s failure to comply with the legal requirements, respondents Cuenco and Yapha unequivocally endorsed said NGO without providing any reason or justification for their choice and without first ascertaining if the latter was eligible or qualified,” the Ombudsman stated.

Records of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) reportedly showed that the incorporators of Kasosyo Foundation were either employed by or related to Yapha.

The president of the foundation, Wilfredo Camomot, was Yapha’s speechwriter and close friend who died of cardiac arrest on August 23, 2004, according to a February 2006 report of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

The four other Kasosyo Foundation incorporators are Ofelio Puno, reported to be the cashier of the Yapha-owned Jegan’s Bus Liner; Abundio Elle, who is reportedly Jegan’s Bus Liner’s tire maintenance man; Nida Ordeniza, who is Yapha’s secretary; and Monico Baron, who was the driver of the late Pinamungahan mayor Jeffrey Yapha, the congressman’s son.

The foundation’s telephone numbers listed in its SEC registration papers were reportedly also the same as those of Yapha’s medical clinic at the Visayas Community Medical Center.

Attempts by Cebu Daily News to reach Yapha yesterday for comment on the Ombudsman resolution failed as his cellphone number could not be reached. Messages sent by CDN to his phone were also left unanswered.

Yapha, currently the vice mayor of Toledo City, had earlier denied any role in the foundation’s set-up claiming that he was unaware that his employees were involved.

Meanwhile, Cuenco told CDN that he is confident that the case against him and Yapha will be dismissed.

His lawyers, Cuenco said, had already submitted a Motion for Reconsideration (MR) before the Office of the Ombudsman in Manila three months ago which had yet to be ruled upon by the anti-graft office.

“I’ve answered all points in my MR, and I’m confident that the case will get dismissed,” Cuenco said.

He recalled that one of the grounds he raised in his MR was that the Ombudsman’s cause of action for the case had already prescribed since the Ombudsman’s decision was just handed to them three months ago.

“That’s a very old case. I already filed an MR. We will just wait for the result of my MR. There’s no basis for that cause of action. A mere endorsement by me is what’s being relied on. I have nothing to do with that NGO,” Cuenco said.

He further claimed that it was Lecciones who chose Kasosyo as the NGO to implement the project.

Lecciones, in earlier media interviews denied any knowledge that the foundation’s incorporators were employees of Yapha.

Meanwhile, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales had ordered its Field Investigation Office to conduct a further inquiry on the alleged overprice in the procurement of liquid fertilizers for the Kasosyo Foundation.

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TAGS: Antonio Cuenco, Cebu, NGO, Ombudsman, scam
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