• GILBERT P. BAYORAN
The Ombudsman has ordered the filing of criminal case against former Sugar Regulatory Administrator Hermenigildo Serafica, allegedly for violation of the Government Procurement Reform Act, known as RA 9184.
The filing of a criminal case against Serafica stemmed from the delay in the procurement of 25 units of ripper harrower, a farm implement used to till soil, which the Ombudsman noted was almost three years since the invitation to bid was posted in August 2017, until the issuance of notice to proceed with the delivery of the equipment, which should have been completed in around 130 to 136 days under the implementing rules and regulations of RA 9184.
Ombudsman records showed that Josephino Agosto filed a complaint against Serafica and eight other employees of the SRA, over the alleged delays in the procurement of 25 units of ripper harrower.
Aside from Serafica, also charged for violation of Section 3 (c) of RA 3019, grave misconduct and gross neglect of duty, were Jennifer Marie Artates, Brando Norona, Narciso Cabalquinto Jr., Rosemarie Gumera, Resty Reano, Marco Soriano, and Concepcion Ruby.
Agosto pointed out that 886 days had already lapsed from the issuance of the notice of the award to the signing of the contract, when only 10 days were allowed.
The complainant claimed that Serafica intentionally and deliberately held up and delayed the release of the Notice to Proceed for approximately more than two years until such time the bidder, Super Trade Enterprises, initiated/pursued a negotiation meeting with him and Artates
The Ombudsman said that there is a substantial evidence to hold Serafica liable for grave misconduct and gross neglect of duty, and a probable cause to indict him under RA 9184, specifically under Section 65 (a) (2) for delaying the award and implementation of the contract beyond the prescribed periods of action.
But the Ombudsman, however, finds no reason to hold eight other SRA employees administratively, or criminally liable.
The Ombudsman also found Serafica guilty for procuring farm tractors only in 2020 when this should have been done along with the procurement of harrowers in 2017.
Serafica was found guilty of gross neglect of duty and grave misconduct and ordered dismissed from service with forfeiture of retirement benefits and perpetual disqualification from holding public office.
Serafica, who has yet to issue a statement in connection with the Ombudsman decision, had already resigned from SRA in 2022, due to a sugar importation issue.
If the penalty of dismissal can no longer be implemented by reason of separation from the service, Ombudsman said the penalty of a fine amounting to one year’s salary shall be imposed, payable to the Office of the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman however dismissed the graft complaint against Serafica, saying that the allegations against him did not fall under the provisions of section 3(e) of RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, as there was “no evidence of undue injury to any party.”*