After clearing president Arroyo from the 728 million pesos fertilizer scam, Joc-joc Bolante tried to wash hands also by passing the blame to the Department of Agriculture regional offices on the implementation of the fertilizer fund. Apparently rehearsed, former DA undersecretary Bolante cleared Mrs. Arroyo, congressmen, and local government officials implicated in the fertilizer scam in his testimony by saying it was the regional offices of the Department of Agriculture that implemented the funds.
Seemingly relaxed he was very evasive on answering questions from the senators who grilled him for almost 10 hours last Thursday. He assumed full responsibility in handling the P728 million Ginintuang Masaganang Ani (GMA) program of the DA but excused himself from the perceived anomalies, placing the blame to the implementors, subordinates and to undersecretary for regional operations. But DA Secretary Yap denied involvement.
But his so called “lying” only irked the Senators who found him incredible in his statement. As far as Senator Aquilino Pimentel is concerned, at Bolante’s statements are “not plausible” because as undersecretary for finance it was his duty to ensure that the funds they released should reach intended recipients. “The responsibility does not lie with the end users but with the [fund] sources,” Pimentel said. Senator Mirriam Defensor Santiago told him he was guilty based on the evidences gathered by the previous Senate’s inquiry on the alleged scam and that the burden of proof resides on him to prove himself innocent. In fact Senator Lacson even threatened him of detention at the National Bilibid Prison for contempt in the Senate hearing.
This is the first time Bolante appeared before the Senate after almost three years of evading the Senators. He was very apologetic for not attending to the Senate’s hearings despite summons but said he had no intention to ignore the Senators. In Thursday’s hearing, Bolante repeatedly denied allegations that the fertilizer fund was diverted to the campaign fund of the administration in 2004 but said that the bulk of the funds was released to Palace allies – 105 congressmen, 53 governors and 23 mayors – after the holding of the election. On the other hand he also admitted that there were indeed fund release before the election but these were merely partial releases.
Bolante explained when grilled by Senator Mar Roxas that availing the funds from the Executive “is not something that requires the approval of Mrs. Arroyo.” According to him, DA was not really required to submit the list of project proponents to be able to release the request of the P728 million. But that’s unbelievable said Senator Roxas who pointed out that it was impossible for “Mr. Bolante to release such huge amount of money without the approval of the President” knowing that Mrs. Arroyo was a micro manager who is very particular about details in government operations.
So Bolante was lying, but what was he trying do impress upon the Senate for passing the blame on the misuse of fertilizer funds to the so called implementors? Bolante, tagged as the architect of the scam, wants to clear Malacanang, the congressmen and the governors by giving the impression that not a single centavo went into their hands but the project implementors, the local governments chosen to implement the project. But Senator Peter Allan Cayetano, the chairman of the Senate’s blue ribbon committee know pretty well his (Bolante) scheme. “His first step is to separate himself from Malacanang and then to separate himself from the implementors,” Cayetano told reporters when interviewed.
Former solicitor general Frank Chavez who filed a case of plunder against Bolante, perceived his (Bolante’s) alleged “lying” seemed to have work against those Senators who grilled him yesterday. If liken to a boxing, Bolante won the first round. But this is not what the Senators see. Bolante’s statements could be verified when they start calling the regional directors of the DA in the succeeding sessions. “Everything and anything he says will be compared to documents of DA and the Commission on Audit,” said Senate’s blue ribbon committee chairman Allan Peter Cayetano.
In the previous Senate inquiry, Santiago learned from the information that Bolante supposedly cornered 25-percent in alleged kickbacks, while local officials were supposedly given 30-percent of the amount and the suppliers and so-called runners purportedly cornered 20 percent and 25 percent, respectively.
“I give you fair warning, sir, that although I’m an administration ally, what I have heard today has caused me almost a heart attack. The problem is, you are defending the indefensible!,” she said.
Many agreed with her that Bolante’s lying under oath was “out of sheer necessity.”
Abangan ang susunod na hearing ng Senado, igigisa uli si Bolante sa fertilizer scam. Bagamat nasiyahan ang Malacanang sa kanyang di umano’y pagtatakip sa presidente, magkakabukingang din sa huli ayon sa mga Senador kung maghahara-harap na sina Joc-joc Bolante at mga tatawagin regional directors na kanyang sinasabi na siyang nag-iplementa sa nasabing pundo.
Para lamang makaiwas sa pananagutan sa pagwaldas ng kulang-kulang na isang bilyon na pondo ng Department of Agriculture ay ibinaling niya ang pananagutan kay dating Department of Agriculture Lorenzo na siyang nagbigay sa kanya ng otorisayon na magbigay ng pondo sa mga proponent magmula sa 3-milyong piso hanggang 5-milyong piso dahil hindi magampanan sa panahong iyon ng naturang sikretaryo ng Departamento ng Agrikultura ang ganitong tungkulin dahil lagi itong nasa mga lakaran sa labas ng bansa. Lusot nga naman si Joc-jok, hehehe. Pero hindi siya nakakasiguro dahil hindi niya maitatatwa na siya ang nagbigay kapahintulutan sa mga pag-evaluate at pagbibigay ng pondo para sa farm implements at fertilizer sa mga proponents na kanyang sinasabi. At ano mang pagkukulang ang mayroon ng mga ito at pananagutan din niya.
Babalik pa rin sa Senado si Bolante, at willing ding haharap sa mga Senador si Department of Agriculture secretary Yap para linisin ang kanyang pangalan. Abangan ang susunod na kabanata.