Official denies involvement in P2.3M rice theft

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

AN OFFICIAL of the National Food Authority (NFA) based in Agusan del Sur who figured in a P2.3-million worth of alleged rice grain theft has denied any link to the reported anomaly that has been filed to the Office of the Ombudsman in Davao City on August 5.

The rice grains were allegedly rebagged using commercial rice sacks.

Gil Tabor, provincial manager of NFA-Agusan del Sur, cried foul over the claims hurled at him as the brain behind the "unauthorized and undocumented" 1,890 sacks of rebagged rice grains transported out of the warehouse in Bayugan City in Caraga region.


Aside from Tabor, warehouse supervisor Melvin Pacaña was also linked to this alleged graft.

The regional Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit (CIDU) of Caraga filed graft and malversation of government property against Tabor and Pacaña before the Ombudsman.

However, Tabor suspected the motives behind the filing of charges at the Ombudsman considering there is "no concrete evidence" that could point him as the primary suspect.

Tabor told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro on Saturday afternoon that a CIDU investigator, he identified only as SPO1 Frias, approached him on the latter’s need of “financial support” since they have been using their personal money in conducting their investigations.

Tabor and Frias met in a bar in Butuan City days after the graft case was filed to talk over the matter.

"I thought it was already an investigation. It was just a mere conversation. For about seven times, Frias repeatedly said they could help me with my case and at the same time, repeatedly said they need money," Tabor said.

Late Sunday evening, SPO1 Nelson Frias messaged Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro denying Tabor's allegation of "extortion" referring to Frias' repeated mention of financial support to roll the investigation.

"There was never an attempt of extorting money from him. I was just there doing my job as the investigator," said Frias in a text message.

Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro phoned and sent a message to chief Senior Superintendent Dick Cale several times on Sunday to verify Tabor's claims. However, Sun.Star never got a return call nor any message from him.

Chronology of events

In a "chronology of events" copy furnished to Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro by the NFA-Caraga Director Gil Pepito Paqueo, the irregularity in the warehouse first sparked when a tip via a text message sent to him on July 14 claimed that laborers of the warehouse were seen carrying bags of rice and loading them to two ten-wheeler trucks.

Paqueo then formed the inventory inspection team composed of former provincial industry services officer Rolando Sindo, NFA-Agusan del Norte accountant Eric Bonilla, NFA-Agusan del Sur accountant Richard Dandan, and NFA-Caraga's budget officer Kim Telarma.

The inventory team led by Sindo found out that 135 pieces of wooden pallet or board were used to replace around 1,300 bags of rice in the warehouse. Sacks of rice were used as cover-up encased the pallets.

Paqueo also ordered Chevron Security and Investigation Agency to release the license plate number of the trucks registered on their logbooks.

With the assistance of the Land Transportation Office in the region, Paqueo and the security agency found out that the two trucks were owned by Davao-based Noli Clarito Trucking Services.

In Paqueo's cross-examination of the Statement of Daily Stocks for the last week of June 2014, he discovered there was no such transaction recorded.

The CIDU alleged Tabor and Pacaña as behind the tons of rice being rebagged into commercial rice sacks before transporting these to Davao City.

On July 23, Pacaña was relieved from his post as a warehouse supervisor following the admission of repackaging sacks of rice into commercial bags.

Witness accounts

In their respective affidavit, six laborers identified as Michael Aparente, Romero Aparente, Custodio Benito Jr., Paulo Cuano, Lando and Candido Pino claimed they were paid P5 by Pacaña for every sack of rebagged rice.

These witnesses in a sworn statement said they also dismounted around 2,000 empty sacks printed "White Gold" from a black Montero SUV last June 27 this year whose owner was identified only as "Bebang."

On July 19, Cale discovered 42 pieces of brand new commercial sacks from a yellow Wrangler jeepney owned by Pacaña. These sacks, the laborers said, were used to repackage the rice in the NFA warehouse.

Ronray Dinaya, the guard on-duty at the warehouse on June 28, revealed in his affidavit that he saw laborers loading sacks of rice around 11 a.m.

Before passing through the exit gate of the warehouse, Pacaña failed to show the required documents to allow them to go out of the compound with the tons of rice.

Dinaya said the supervisor only told him the needed “documents will follow.”

On July 3, security guard on duty Nico Igsoc was also told by a cargo truck driver with license plate number LXB-264 that “documents will follow.”

Before allowing the release of tons of rice, the guards have to receive authority of accept payment, official receipt, authority to issue and warehouse stock issue.

Earlier reports surfaced that Tabor also went missing following the controversy.

But Tabor said: "I was issued a gag order so I never spoke to anyone about it yet. Reports are going overboard already. My conscience's clear."

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on August 11, 2014.

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