The Office of the Ombudsman has dismissed a graft complaint filed by the Lapanday Foods Corporation (LFC) against Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Rafael Mariano and Undersecretary Luis Pañgulayan.
LFC had also accused the two DAR officials of grave misconduct, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service and oppression/grave abuse of authority in the complaint that it filed last month.
According to a Notice of Dismissal addressed to the firm, the Office of the Ombudsman said in part, “A resolution on the allegations of the complaint cannot be done by the office without passing upon the issues concerning the validity of the issuances and the writ’s implementation. Stated differently, complainant is indirectly assailing in this complaint the legality of the issuances and the writ’s implementation, which the Office cannot take cognizance of since these issues should be addressed to the proper forum.”
“Clearly, complainant is presently seeking reliefs from the Regional Trial Court [RTC] of Davao City through its pending petition for indirect contempt and from the Court of Appeals (8th Division) in its pending petition for certiorari. These are adequate remedies that are available to complainant and which it is indeed currently availing of in the regular courts,” it added.
The Office of the Ombudsman thus dismissed the complaint outright “for want of palpable merit and complainant has an adequate remedy in another forum.”
LFC alleged in its complaint that Mariano committed graft when he issued a cease and desist order last December which, according to LFC, prohibited it from evicting the members of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association Inc. [Marbai] from their “occupied” areas.
The order “gave a stamp of approval to the forcible taking by MarbaiI members of the Sanid area” and “emboldened the Marbai members to chop the bananas of HEARBCO-1, and to destroy the facilities of LFC in the banana plantation,” the firm also alleged.
HEARBCO-1 is the Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative-1.
LFC also alleged that Pañgulayan committed graft when he supposedly “publicly announced to the Marbai members on December 19, 2016 that by virtue of the cease and desist order, the Marbai members could already harvest the bananas in the Sanid area and sell them to third parties despite knowing that LFC has the exclusive right to manage the Sanid area and to purchase the Cavendish bananas of HEARBCO-1, pursuant to a final and executory Order of the RTC of Davao City, and that the DAR has no authority to annul a final and executory order of the regular courts.”
The firm was referring to a meeting called last December 19 by the Office of the City Mayor of Tagum City between LFC, HEARBCO-1, and Marbai to discuss a possible win-win solution.
The 157.5-hectare Sanid area refers to areas in HEARBCO-1’s banana plantation that had suffered deterioration and that were turned over to LFC management for rehabilitation and operation.
According to the complaint, LFC is the exclusive buyer of Cavendish bananas produced from the banana plantation.
A disease outbreak in 2004 spoiled the bananas in the farm and caused production to drop, which led to the deterioration of the plantation.
According to the complaint, the “No Group” members who organized themselves as Marbai in 2012 did not want to honor a compromise agreement between HEARBCO-1 and LFC that was signed in 2011.
“In the compromise agreement, the areas of HEARBCO-1’s banana plantation which suffered deterioration were denominated as ‘Poor Areas’ while those which remained in good condition were termed as ‘Good Areas.’
The poor areas consisting of 157.5 hectares were turned over to the management of LFC for rehabilitation and operation. This area is called the Sanid Area. LFC likewise advanced the operational requirements of the farm in order to ensure that the farm receives adequate farm inputs and technical support,” LFC said.