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Ombudsman affirms decision to indict ex-SRA chief

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• GILBERT P. BAYORAN

The Office of the Ombudsman has affirmed its earlier decision, finding basis to charge former Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) head Hermenegildo Serafica over the delay in the procurement of farming tools worth P5.7 million.

Meanwhile, the charges against Jennifer Marie S. Artates, Brando D. Norona, Erlina J. Abacan, Narciso N. Cabalquinto, Jr., Rosemarie S. Gumera, Resty D. Reano, Marco D. Soriano, and Conception C. Ruby remained dismissed for lack of merit, the Ombudsman added.

Serafica, according to the Ombudsman, violated Section 65 (a) (2) of  Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act, which penalizes any public official who delays without justifiable cause the awarding of contracts beyond the prescribed periods of bids or other documents.

It said that the invitation to bid for the procurement of harrowers was opened from August 23 to September 13, 2017. But the notice to proceed was only issued on Sept. 3, 2020.

In his partial motion for reconsideration, dated Sept. 26 last year, Serafica said that while there was a delay in the award of contract, it was caused by circumstances beyond his control, and it should be met with consideration.

He blamed red tape and unnecessary bureaucracy in the SRA as early as 2017.

Due to alleged change in the management that contributed to the delay, Serafica claimed that he could not micro-manage and supervise all processes of the SRA.

He further attributed the delay to a series of changes in the composition of the BAC (Bids and Awards Committee), which affected the endorsement of pending accountabilities, and depletion of SRA personnel due to an Early Retirement Plan.

Serafica added that the pandemic also contributed to the difficulties in carrying out SRA operations, as he also further stressed that he cannot act without the authorization of the Board.

He further said that it was only on Aug. 24, 2020 that the BAC recommended to the head of the Procuring Entity (HoPE) for the issuance of the Notice to Proceed.

Regrettably, the Ombudsman said it finds no sufficient grounds to reconsider its previous position.

“Even assuming, but only for the sake of theoretical argument, that the Board’s deferments had been material, Serafica’s claims of such deferments and suspensions is not supported by any evidence on record. His claims rests solely on alleged status reports and excerpts and timelines on SIDA Procurement, including Board discussions which are unsigned, uncertified, unverified, and undated, the said the Ombudsman resolution dated October 26 last year, and signed by Ombudsman Samuel Martires.

“They are merely spreadsheet printouts the origins and custodians of which cannot be determined by this Office. They are nothing more than mere allegations, at best, which, if unsupported by evidence, cannot be made a basis or ground for reconsideration,” the resolution further said.

“Wherefore, there being no grounds for reconsideration, the 26 September 2023 Joint Resolution, as clarified, is hereby affirmed, in toto,” the order said.*

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