SC asks Senate to disclose Bolante inquiry

THE Supreme Court wants a full disclosure on the result of the Senate’s inquiry on the controversial P728-million fertilizer fund scam, which pointed to former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante as the scam’s alleged chief architect.

In a resolution, the High Court en banc resolved to “require the parties to manifest the status of the Senate inquiry within a non-extendible period of seven days.”

The High Court said it needs to know first the status of the Senate inquiry for it to act on the petition filed by Bolante in 2006, which seeks to nullify the arrest warrants issued against him by the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food.

Bolante was cited in contempt by the Senate agriculture committee and the Senate ordered his arrest on December 12, 2005 after he failed to attend the joint committee hearings scheduled on October 6, 26 and November 17, 24, and December 12, of the same year, despite subpoenas sent to him.

In his petition, through counsel Antonio Zulueta in January 2006, Bolante asked the High Court to issue a temporary restraining order with prayer for preliminary injunction to set aside the Senate’s warrant of arrest, on grounds it is unconstitutional.

The petition was executed on January 4, 2006 before Roberto Bernardo, Philippine vice consul for State of Illinois, Chicago, USA. Named respondents in the suit were Senators Joker Arroyo and Ramon Magsaysay Jr., former chairmen of the Senate Blue- Ribbon and Committee on Agriculture and Food, respectively and their members, as well as Senate Sergeant At Arms Jose Balajadia.

Records show the P728-million fertilizer fund was distributed before the 2004 national elections among lawmakers, including congressmen whose areas they represented had no farmlands.

Investigation at the House of Representatives later revealed that many of the congressmen who were on the list of among those who benefited from the fund did not actually received the amount purported to them. Among those on the list who received nothing was Rep. Teodoro Locsin of Makati City.

Government critics expressed belief that the P728 million was diverted to President Gloria Arroyo’s 2004 election campaign fund.

Bolante is currently jailed at the Kenosha County Detention Center in Wisconsin for an immigration case and appealed the decision of the US Court of Appeals that junked his petition for political asylum.

The Senate had also recommended Bolante’s prosecution before the Office of the Ombudsman. The case, however, remains pending.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez said Bolante will remain a freeman if he is deported, as there were no criminal charges filed against him nor a pending warrant, except for the one earlier issued by the Senate.

“So if he arrives I don’t think we can arrest him unless the Senate can enforce its order to arrest him,” he said.
— William B.Depasupil (ManilaTimes)

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