SC stops Sandiganbayan from trying Chito Lorenzo, Arthur Yap over P46M fertilizer scam

The Supreme Court (SC) has indefinitely stopped the Sandiganbayan from proceeding with the trial of former Agriculture Secretary Luis Ramon “Chito” Lorenzo and former National Food Authority (NFA) administrator (now-Bohol Governor) Arthur Yap over the purchase of P46.45-million fertilizers without bidding in 2003.

According to a recent notice of resolution, the SC 2nd Division issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the Sandiganbayan 6th Division’s graft trial “pending final adjudication” of Lorenzo’s petition to reverse the denial of his motion to quash the charges.

The SC would also take over the resolution of “other incidents,” including motions for authority to travel abroad and the preventive suspension of Yap as mandated by Section 13 of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Lorenzo’s petition before the SC concerned the Sandiganbayan’s August 9, 2018 resolution which rejected his contentions that the facts in the informations did not charge an offense and that the Ombudsman violated his right to the speedy disposition of his case.

Lorenzo and Yap’s coaccused, Philippine Phosphate Fertilizer Corp. (Philphos) representative Tomas Guibani, would also benefit from the TRO.

Ombudsman prosecutors indicted the three in April 2018. They accused Lorenzo and Yap of directing the regional bids and awards committees (BACs) of five regions to purchase 92,158 bags of fertilizer through negotiated procurement, instead of competitive bidding.

The guidelines were also allegedly amended to favor Philphos, by allowing only suppliers with depots within or near the pertinent region to participate in the procurement process.

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