Ombudsman approves filing of charges vs Jocjoc


By Edu Punay
Saturday, June 7, 2008

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Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez has approved the filing of charges of graft and corruption and illegal use of public funds against former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn “Jocjoc” Bolante and other Department of Agriculture (DA) officials tagged in the P728-million fertilizer scam.

Assistant Ombudsman Mark Jalandoni said Gutierrez has created a panel to conduct a preliminary investigation on Bolante and the other suspects.

“We will start the preliminary investigation on this case (fertilizer scam) very soon,” he said. “We are just finalizing the initial report from the (Field Investigation Office).”

Jalandoni said the Office of the Ombudsman has found ample grounds to pursue investigation on allegations against Bolante and other DA officials supposedly involved in alleged anomalies in the fertilizer project.

The preliminary investigation would determine probable cause on whether the complaint would be sent to the Sandiganbayan for trial, he added.

Violation of Republic Act 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and Article 220 of the Revised Penal Code refer to giving undue injury to any party, including the government, caused by giving any private party any unwarranted benefit, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions, Jalandoni said.

Also recommended for indictment were Agriculture Undersecretary Belinda Gonzales and Assistant Secretaries Jose Felix Montes, Edmund Sana and Ibarra Poliquit.

The case arose from alleged anomalies in the distribution of the government’s P728-million fertilizer fund through the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani (GMA) program before the national elections in 2004.

The project was also supposedly overpriced by at least P127 million.

Bolante fled to the US in 2005 at the height of a Senate investigation into the fertilizer scam.

However, his asylum bid was denied twice by a Chicago Immigration Court in a ruling dated Feb. 9, 2007 and a Board of Immigration Appeals decision, dated June 25, 2007.

Bolante prosecution doubted

The President of the Anti-Graft League of the Philippines doubted yesterday the prosecution of Bolante because of his close ties to Malacañang.

Crispin Reyes, Anti-Graft League president, said the case would test the independence of the Office of the Ombudsman to pursue the recommendation of its field investigation to charge Bolante in court.

“The Ombudsman is faced with the dilemma, it’s a choice (between) her survival or the rule of law,” he said.

Reyes warned that any inaction of the Ombudsman on the case of Bolante would add to the unresolved anomalies and scandals in government.

“More suffering and abuses will trigger social unrest, even a revolution,” he said. – With Perseus Echeminada(PStar)

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