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Centena, 8 others plead guilty to lesser charge

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Calinog, Iloilo Mayor Alex Centena and eight other municipal officials have pleaded guilty before the Sandiganbayan over their alleged anomalous purchase liquid fertilizers worth P999,000 in 2004.

Other officials who pleaded guilty were former municipal officials Jose Rex Casipe, Anna Lerio Caspillo, Crispino Castro, Meriam Celeste, Jose Edeso Enriquez Melanie Hilario, Rhoda Lyn Panizales, and Valentin Sobretodo.

The Sandiganbayan Seventh Division said the defendants agreed to plead guilty so that their graft charge be reduced to “failure of the accountable officer to render accounts” under Article 218 of the Revised Penal Code.

Last March, the anti-graft court slapped Centena and the eight others with a 90-day preventive suspension following a complaint filed against them by Task Force Abono of the Office of the Ombudsman.

They were accused of dishonesty, grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of service in relation to the purchase of more than 600 bottles of liquid fertilizers from Feshan Philippines, Inc. without public bidding.

On April 11, the Sandiganbayan accepted the plea of Centena and his co-accused and ordered them to pay P5,000 each and P999,000 as civil liability.