Ex-mayor ‘guilty’ of lesser rap over ‘overpriced’ fertilizer in ‘11

THE Sandiganbayan’s 7th Division found former Carcar town mayor now Councilor Mario Patricio Barcenas guilty of “Failure of Accountable Officer to Render Accounts.”

Aside from facing a penalty of P5,000, Barcenas is also directed to pay P249,000 as part of the plea bargaining agreement with the Office of the Ombudsman.

In a nine-page decision penned by Associate Justice Ma. Theresa Dolores Estoesta and concurred by Associate Justices Georgina Hidalgo and Bayani Jacinto on Jan. 22, 2020, the court said it cannot compel the prosecution to continue prosecuting the graft case “by virtue of its agreement that accused be allowed to plea bargain to a lesser offense.”

“Wherefore, judgment is hereby rendered finding accused Mario Patricio Paraz Barcenas guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the lesser offense of Failure of Accountable Officer to Render Accounts defined and penalized under the Article 218 of the Revised Penal Code,” reads a portion of the decision.

SunStar Cebu has yet to get the side of Barcenas on the matter.

Barcenas and two other former city officials--Roque Sarcauga, the former municipal agriculturist, and Valentin Gamutan, the town’s municipal planning and development coordinator and head of the bids and awards committee at the time--faced a graft case over the purchase of allegedly overpriced bottled fertilizers in 2011.

The respondents were accused of giving unwarranted benefits to M.M. Castillo General Merchandise, the supplier of 166 bottles of foliar fertilizers. The purchase did not undergo a public bidding and was instead made through direct contracting between the supplier and the City Government.

In a resolution dated Aug. 23, 2018, the court denied the omnibus motion (to quash the criminal information, to quash the warrant of arrest and/or to dismiss the case) filed by Barcenas.

Following his arraignment on Sept. 10, 2018, Barcenas entered a plea of not guilty. In the court’s resolution dated Oct. 15, 2018, he was preventively suspended from his position as vice mayor of Carcar City for a period 90 days.

On Sept. 2, 2019, the pre-trial order was issued. During the supposed presentation of prosecution evidence on Sept. 16, 2019 and Nov. 13, 2019, Barcenas manifested his intention to plea bargain with the prosecution by pleading to a lesser offense.

The prosecution supported the plea bargaining as it no longer intends to present evidence against the accused.

“As manifested in open court, the Ombudsman has given the approval to the plea bargain agreement,” reads a portion of the decision.

Upon rearraignment of the case for lesser offense of Failure of Accountable Officer to Render Accounts, Barcenas “spontaneously entered a plea of guilty.”

This, the court said, means he is deemed to have admitted to all the accusations against him and that he is to be penalized with prision correccional in its minimum period, or a fine ranging from P200 to P6,000, or both, pursuant to Article 218 of the Revised Penal Code.

Sarcauga was also held civilly liable and was asked to pay P125,000, based on the decision dated July 12, 2019. (WBS)