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Ombudsman OKs graft charges vs L-Ray

MANILA, Philippines - Former Camarines Sur governor Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr. is facing a P20-million graft case before the Sandiganbayan for alleged misuse of public funds three years ago.

The Office of the Ombudsman filed the criminal charges against Villafuerte and businessman Jeffrey Lo last week following an investigation into a complaint lodged by former provincial board member Carlo Batalla in July 2011.

Villafuerte was indicted for his alleged involvement in the questionable purchase of P20 million worth of fuel within a period of four months from January to April 2010 which was done supposedly without a public bidding.    

Batalla alleged that Villafuerte approved three bulk purchases of fuel that were denominated as “deposits” to Petron Fuel Express owned by Lo yet none of the fuel was supposedly delivered to the provincial government.

During the preliminary investigation, Villafuerte denied the accusation, saying that advance payments were indeed made because the fuel was to be delivered later per an arrangement through direct purchase.

Telling graft investigators, he said, “It is a wonder why the complainant is making a big fuss on this matter to the extent of advancing the view that Petron Naga has made no delivery of the gasoline.”

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He said such kind of arrangement “has already been long practiced and observed by some government agencies and entities.”

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, in a 12-page ruling, ruled in favor of the complainant and approved the recommendation of graft investigation and prosecution officer Blesilda Ouano that Villafuerte and Lo be charged before the Sandiganbayan.

“Public respondent Villafuerte Jr. was not at liberty to ignore the almost peremptory competitive bidding requirement mandated by Republic Act 9184,” the decision read, referring to the Government Procurement Reform Act.

“Public respondent Villafuerte Jr.’s assertions are lame justification for his irregular acts,” the Ombudsman said. (From