Rice mill anomaly: Ex-Ilocos mayor convicted of graft

BACARRA, Ilocos Norte — The Sandiganbayan has convicted a former mayor of this town for graft over an anomalous rice mill project during his term nine years ago.

The anti-graft court’s third division sentenced former mayor Pacifico Velasco to a jail term of up to eight years and perpetually disqualified him from holding public office.

This, after he was found guilty of violating Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) when he granted the P3.3-million project to a cooperative that he partly owned.

In a nine-page decision promulgated Dec. 10, the Sandiganbayan ruled Velasco “gave unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference to Zanjera Cooperative because he had shares in the said cooperative and that his son, Michael Velasco, was appointed manager thereto.”

It said Velasco’s move also showed “manifest partiality, evident bad faith and gross inexcusable negligence” that had caused undue injury to the government.

Out of 32 consumer cooperatives registered in Bacarra town, it said Velasco “singled out” the Zanjera Cooperative “to administer, manage and operate the multi-pass rice mill” on October 1999.

The Sandiganbayan also found out that the required ordinance or resolution from the municipal council of Bacarra prior to the purchase of the rice mill was absent.

During the trial, Velasco admitted that he was a member of the Zanjera Cooperative.

But he said he believed there was no need to secure a municipal council resolution in granting the operations and management of the rice mill to the cooperative since no transfer of funds was involved.

But the anti-graft court said Velasco “failed to comply with the basic rules of governance embodied in the Local Government Code. As local executive, accused Velasco ought to know the law and he was duty-bound to obey the same.”

The defense presented as witness Maximo Agustin Jr., chairman of the board of Zanjera, who only affirmed that Velasco was among the incorporators of the cooperative and that his son Michael had been its manager since July 1998.

It was learned during the trial that Velasco owned 520 shares in the cooperative.

The prosecution, led by prosecutor Mario Quinit, presented as witnesses former vice mayor Philip Velasco, Zanjera officer Ardelino Galicinao, Commission on Audit regional director for Ilocos Norte Alejandro Que, and municipal accountant Lydia Mann.

The former vice mayor, a nephew of the accused, was gunned down in May last year. — EP(NorthernPhilippineTimes)

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