Lapid pleads not guilty to graft over fertilizer scam

>> Monday, March 7, 2016

MEXICO, Pampanga -- Sen. Lito Lapid last week pleaded not guilty to graft charges filed against him in connection with his alleged involvement in the fertilizer fund scam when he was governor of Pampanga. 
Lapid entered the plea after agreeing to be conditionally arraigned so the Sandiganbayan could grant his motion to travel to Germany.
“I want the case to move on and I’m confident the evidence against me is weak. I believe this case will be dismissed,” Lapid told journalists in Filipino after the proceedings.
Lapid’s arraignment was originally set on March 10. But since he filed a motion to travel, the Sandiganbayan said it could not grant his request unless he underwent arraignment.
After consulting his lawyers, Lapid agreed to be arraigned despite his pending motion seeking to dismiss the case.
Sandigan Associate Justice Efren de la Cruz allowed Lapid to travel and ordered him to post P30,000 bond.
Lapid will be in Berlin from March 7 to 15 for a tourism summit. He is the chairman of the Senate committee on tourism.
The senator was indicted in November last year for allegedly procuring fertilizer in 2004, using funds provided by the Department of Agriculture for the Masaganang Ani program.
Aside from him, charged were provincial accountant Benjamin Yuzon and treasurer Vergel Yabut, Malayan Pacific Trading Corp. incorporators Ma. Victoria Aquino-Abubakar and Leolita Aquino, and businessman Dexter Alexander Vasquez. 

The complaint, filed by the Office of the Ombudsman, said the bottles of fertilizer were overpriced and procured without public bidding.


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