BY JP LOPEZ
THE Senate is readying the transmittal of testimonial and documentary evidence to help the Office of the Ombudsman in filing plunder charges against former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc Joc” Bolante and other key personalities implicated in the P728 million fertilizer fund mess.
“We have enough (evidence) to bring this (case) to the Ombudsman. There is a ton of evidence, and we have heard testimony among witnesses that was presented by way of checks and reports. We warn the Ombudsman that there is enough evidence,” Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the Blue Ribbon Committee, said.
The Blue Ribbon panel is expected to come out with a preliminary report recommending the filing of plunder and other charges against Bolante, alleged Malacañang liaison Jaime Paule, alleged runner Marites Aytona, and others for defrauding the government of an estimated P620 million.
Gordon said money laundering, falsification of documents, and other offenses were committed but these would all be absorbed by plunder which is a capital offense.
Gordon lamented the lackadaisical attitude of the Ombudsman on the findings and recommendations of the Blue Ribbon and the food and agriculture committee in December of 2005 for the prosecution of Bolante whom they tagged as mastermind of the 2004 fund mess.
“It has been 1,056 days since the (Joker) Arroyo and (Ramon) Magsaysay (Jr.) committee submitted its report on its investigation into the fertilizer project but the Ombudsman has yet to file graft charges or take action against any individual in connection with the controversy,” he said.
Gordon said if the Ombudsman does not want the public to lump it together with the evasive, if not downright, lying witnesses, the Ombudsman should take action and stop putting off the filing of appropriate charges.
“I advise the Ombudsman not to tarry any longer because this will just open more questions that demand answers, and above all, demand what we call justice. Indeed, the people’s frustration is evident. People have become cynical and frustrated,” he added.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and a group of farmers tilling lands owned by the Arroyo family in Negros Occidental backed the possibility of plunder charges against Bolante and company.
CBCP spokesman Msgr. Pedro Quitorio and Task Force Mapalad president Jose Rhodito Angeles said the move of the Blue Ribbon committee is justified considering that it involves public funds. – With Gerard Naval(Malaya)