“No P14M cash for fertilizer”



BOLANTE, AUMENTADO, CHATTO, CAJES, JALA
If figures based on documents of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Commission on Audit (COA) are accurate, the province received P14 million in fertilizer funds at the height of the 2004 elections.

However, Gov. Erico Aumentado, Representatives Edgar Chatto (First District), Roberto Cajes (Second

District) and former Third District congressman Eladio Jala all denied they actually received the fertilizer allocations in cash.Aumentado said he did not receive a single centavo out of the P5 million reportedly given to the provincial government as reflected in the DBM records of fund releases.

Chatto, Cajes and Jala also explained that they did not personally receive the farm inputs or any fund for the purpose.

The DBM and COA documents revealed the three solons as recipients of P3 million each.

The two incumbent solons and Jala, who is now assistant secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), all welcomed the Senate probe into the P728 million fertilizer subsidy that were allegedly diverted to bankroll the 2004 campaign of Arroyo and administration candidates.

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During Friday’s “The Governor Reports”, Aumentado said that he was only informed that fertilizers were delivered to the Provincial Agriculture Office. The farm inputs were purportedly purchased by the regional office of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Provincial Agriculturist Liza Quirog, in a separate interview, confirmed that no less than 40 towns were beneficiaries of the fertilizers distributed by the DA but could not give the amount of the farm inputs.

Quirog recalled having received and distributed the liquid (foliar) fertilizers to the towns sometime in July 2004.

The delivery of the fertilizers was done all at the same time with all the boxes brought to the provincial DA office.

The governor assigned Assistant Provincial Agriculturist Bebot Pinat to handle the distribution of the fertilizers to the municipal agriculture officers in the towns.

SOLONS EXPLAIN

The three solons said they all want to clear their names and welcomes the ongoing Senate inquiry with the testimony of former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn “Jocjoc” Bolante.

Rep. Chatto disclosed that it was then DA Regional Director Eduardo Lecciones who facilitated the fertilizer support program funneled directly to the local government units.

In his district, Chatto said it was Balilihan town that became the recipient since the interior town is known for enhancing agricultural productivity.

Vice Mayor Dominisio Chatto, who was then town mayor, was the one who implemented and audited in accordance with the procurement rules and procedures with full documentation.

Full liquidation of fund disbursements was done with the DA regional office, according to Balilihan municipal treasurer Lina Banac.

For his part, Rep. Cajes said he was asked by the regional DA to identify two towns that need fertilizers the most.

Cajes said he recommended San Isidro and Dagohoy towns. After recommending the towns, he never heard again what happened to the fertilizer support.

Then Dagohoy Mayor Sofronio Apat and then San Isidro Mayor Boy Samoya, both were not able to give him updates on the distribution of the fertilizers as he was already in the thick of the campaign for the 2004 elections.

Meanwhile, ASec. Jala said that when asked by Regional Director Eduardo Lecciones what town he wanted to receive fertilizers, he recommended the town of Bilar being one of the top rice producing towns in the province.

He was able to confirm from Bilar Mayor Fanuel Cadelina that organic fertilizers, granules, and not liquid, were distributed in his town.

Cajes, who used to chair the House committee on ethics recalled that Task Force Abuno, created by the Office of the Ombudsman, visited the town when the fertilizer scam erupted in the media.

In fact, he learned that a team from COA visited the town. He was informed by Mayor Cadelina that the team found no irregularity on the distribution of the fertilizers.

“Even before, I already favored the investigation of the fertilizer fund because my district will be affected by this mess when in fact it is really an agricultural district unlike Makati and Quezon City that were also listed to be recipients of farm inputs,” Cajes said.

“I’m sure there are available official records that would help in the investigations,” he added.

PRESIDENT’S ALLIES

According to a report of the Ombudsman, 53 governors, 105 congressmen and 23 municipal and city mayors received different amounts out of the fertilizer fund.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Bohol chair John Ruiz III said while not all solons and local officials got the farm subsidy, most of those included in the list of recipients were identified either as partymates or pro-Arroyo.

According to Ruiz, the three Bohol solons and the governor are just as responsible as the Arroyo administration on the fertilizer scam.

“Being the privileged few of supposed “trusted” government officials to implement such multi-million national program, it entails a sense of responsibility of the individual “public servants” to ensure that his/her poor farmer constituents would not be short change.”

Bayan made this statement as Ruiz claims that farmers under the Hugpong sa mga Mag-uumang Bol-anon (Humabol) “never heard of the actual distribution process of the fertilizers.”

In a survey conducted over dyRD, 95-percent of respondents do not believe that Pres. Arroyo is not involved in the supposed P728 million anomaly. (TheBoholChronicle)

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