FERTILIZER FUND PROBE Bolante clears Arroyo


Fund disbursement ‘not a scam’

By Maila Ager
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 05:59:00 11/13/2008

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 14) Former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante has cleared President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of any involvement in the P728 million fertilizer fund scam.

At the same time, Bolante denied the disbursement of the money, which he is accused of diverting to Arroyo’s 2004 campaign kitty, was a scam.

Bolante was grilled for almost eight hours during the hearing, which ended a little past 7 p.m. and showed little signs of flagging, prompting Senator Panfilo Lacson to comment that the former agriculture official “is not sick.”

“As far as I know, the P728-million farm input and implement program funding of the Department of Agriculture was not a scam,” but a legal, valid and proper use of government money, Bolante said in response to questioning from Senator Loren Legarda.

“Your Honor, President Arroyo was not involved in this particular project of the Department of Agriculture. The implementation of the P728 million farm input-farm implement program was approved by the DBM [Department of Budget and Management] without the approval of President Arroyo,” Bolante said in response to a question by Senator Manuel “Mar” Roxas at the start of the Senate investigation into the scandal Thursday.

But Roxas countered that Bolante’s answer was hard to believe.

“That’s hard to believe, Mr. Bolante because we know the President as a micromanager, she dips her hands into everything in government. For you to say that she did not approve this is hard to believe,” Roxas said in Filipino.

Pressed by Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Bolante reiterated that the President had nothing to do with the release of the fertilizer fund.

“Wala po [Nothing],” he said. “We did not have to [get the President’s approval because it’s a regular activity of the Department of Agriculture.”

“It’s part of the budget of the Department of Agriculture. The source of the fund is the regular budget of the Department of Agriculture,” he added.

“It was legal, valid and proper funding,” he told Legarda.

Bolante said there are records to prove this, including a memorandum of agreement indicating the recipients of the money and how it was used.

He also cited a report to the Commission on Audit that 91 percent of the fund had been liquidated.

Bolante said the project had been approved by the DA and did not require the approval of the President.

He also admitted that it was his office that prepared the list of project proponents of the fertilizer fund.

“The list was prepared by my office, tasked by the DA to put together all pending request from different units,” he said.

At the same time, Bolante described as “very unfair” and “railroaded” the Senate’s move to arrest him.

“In all honesty, I really feel that the decision to cite me for contempt and the consequent warrant of arrest was very unfair and railroaded,” he said.

He said the Senate, during the 13th Congress, had indicted him and branded him as the “architect” of the fertilizer fund scam.

Bolante said, “No,” when asked by Estrada whether the money was meant for administration candidates in the 2004 elections.

He said the records of the DA would show that most of these projects were implemented in June and July 2004 or long after the election.

Before this, Bolante has said that he has nothing to hide and apologized to the Senate for “whatever inconvenience” his absence has caused in the course of its investigation into the multimillion-peso fertilizer fund scam.

“I would like to apologize for whatever inconveniences my non-appearance to this august body has caused… I assure you, it’s not out of respect [to the Senate as a whole]” … nor I have something to hide,” said Bolante.

Bolante faced the upper chamber for the first time since he was implicated in the controversy in which he has been tagged as the alleged mastermind.

“It’s not our duty here to prove your guilt but to find the truth,” said Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, chairman of the blue ribbon committee that is presiding over the case.

At the same time, Cayetano said that while Bolante was “fit” to testify, the Senate medical doctor informed him that the former government official was suffering from chronic ulcer and therefore, should be allowed periodic snacks.

Bolante arrived at the Senate Thursday more than an hour before the hearing that started at 9:51 a.m.

Students from the Pasay North High School carried white and red roses for the senators as they sat at the gallery of the session hall to listen to the hearing.

Bolante has been accused of being the brains behind the alleged transfer of P728 million in fertilizer funds to the campaign kitty of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for the 2004 election.

He has not issued a statement since his arrival from the United States where he fled shortly after the expose and tried but failed to seek political asylum.

Bolante arrived in the country last October 27 but before an arrest order could be served by the Senate was brought immediately to the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City where he stayed for more than two weeks until this Thursday.

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One Response to “FERTILIZER FUND PROBE Bolante clears Arroyo”

  1. czed Says:

    how long does it take?

    when will be

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