Bolante back in RP

By Jerome Aning, Maila Ager, Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:04:00 10/28/2008

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE 2) Controversial former agriculture undersecretary Joc-joc Bolante arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), Tuesday night aboard a Northwest Airlines Flight 71 at exactly 10:32 p.m.

Bolante’s arrival was confirmed by NAIA’s media affairs division chief Connie Bungag.

In a statement released to reporters a few minutes before he arrived, Bolante said he will “answer any and all accusations at the proper forum” after he undergoes a medical check up and treatment.

The former government official has been accused of engineering the so-called fertilizer scam, which involved the alleged diversion of P728 million intended for assistance to farmers to the 2004 campaign kitty of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

He left the country in January 2006, after the Senate issued a warrant for his arrest.

The Senate said the arrest order was issued after Bolante snubbed summonses to appear at the inquiry into the P728-million fertilizer scam. Bolante is alleged to have engineered the diversion of the funds to the 2004 campaign kitty of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

However, in the statement, Bolante said he “had no intention of snubbing the Senate hearings and I had made known to the Senate in writing the reasons for my non-appearance that I had made prior commitments abroad, which were set long before the Senate scheduled hearings.”

“Now that I am back, I shall now fulfill my promise to face the issues and all the malicious accusations against me,” Bolante said in the statement, in which he also claimed that he fled the country and sought asylum in the United States for fear of his life after the Senate issued a warrant for his arrest.

“This confirmed my belief that forces from many fronts were out to get me–either in prison or six feet under the ground,” he said.

“In truth and in fact, I committed through counsel in writing to appear before the Senate during the last week of January 2006,” he said.

“Many baseless accusations have been thrown against me these past years,” Bolante said. “I chose to remain silent but I have come to realize that the more I remain silent, the more vicious the accusations have become.”

Bolante was arrested by American immigration authorities after his US visa was cancelled on the request of the Senate. He sought asylum in the US but was denied.

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