Wake Up, Philippines!

‘Pack of wolves’

A “PACK of wolves” is the apt description, and the crimes of plunder and other criminal acts the proper charges, against those involved in the infamous P728 million fertilizer fund scam.

These are the findings arrived at by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee at the conclusion of its investigation of the infamous case early this week.

That the Senate committee chose the phrase “pack of wolves” to describe the alleged perpetrators of the scam only meant how deeply its members were convinced of the reprehensible guilt of the accused.

Wolves are notoriously known to be ruthless predators that would ravish others’ lives to satisfy their own greed.

“The bigger picture shows us the distressing spectacle of veritable wolf packs preying with impunity on government projects, having access to colossal sums of public money, using power and influence without compunction, and perverting public office into an opportunity for abuse and gain,” part of the committee report said.

What is immediately noticeable in the committee’s harsh words and harsher still decision recommending the filing of plunder and other criminal charges against the personalities it found involved in the case was the total silence, if not the lack of criticisms, over such severe and exacting verdict.

But that may be expected because of the national shame and disgruntlement that such scandal caused the nation.

On the contrary, it could have been met with widespread skepticism and possibly violent street protests if the Senate committee, even just a little, toned down the tenor of its indignation on its findings.

The senators themselves, including some opposition leaders, were reported satisfied with the Blue Ribbon investigation, wishing only that the Arroyo government, in particular the Ombudsman, would act decisively on the committee’s recommendations.

Some of them also favored the committee’s report holding President Arroyo responsible for Bolante’s acts and those of the Agriculture Department officials involved in the fertilizer case, an issue which some House leaders dispute, however.

House Deputy Speaker Simeon Datumanong in a statement has said “the acts of those responsible for the diversion of fertilizer funds are not attributable to the President.”

But just the same, Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Blue Ribbon Committee, insists that “the President must explain.”

Even so, Congressman Antonio Cuenco of Cebu, chairman of the House committee on foreign affairs, has expressed disappointment over the Blue Ribbon Committee’s decision to link President Arroyo to the scam, however indirectly, despite the total absence of evidence.

Senator Rodolfo Biazon for his part said he was satisfied “that all the people involved in the scam were now being held accountable.”

Now the proverbial ball is on the Ombudsman’s court.

With the Blue Ribbon Committee’s recommendation, the hope is that the Ombudsman would act speedily on it. While it may be true that the fertilizer scam is only one of the few thousand cases now pending in the Office of the Ombudsman, it is now up to Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez to device means to accommodate it for early resolution.

Otherwise…

(zhern_218@yahoo.com)

By HERN P. ZENAROSA
Manila Bulletin
http://www.mb.com.ph/OPED20090226149092.html

Gordon: GMA did not act on fertilizer scam

Posted in DA, Graft and Corruption, Scandal/Expose/Mess, Senate by Erineus on February 24, 2009
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Sen. Richard Gordon shows the Blue Ribbon report on the fertilizer fund scam. MANNY MARCELO

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate Blue Ribbon committee found no direct evidence linking President Arroyo to the P728-million fertilizer scam in 2004 but inferred that she “acquiesced” to the acts of former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn “Jocjoc” Bolante and other government officials implicated in the scandal by her inaction.

Blue Ribbon committee chairman Richard Gordon told reporters yesterday that the corollary rule to the control powers of the President was called the “doctrine of qualified political agency.”

In a 130-page report, the committee concluded: “Since there was no reprobation or disapproval coming from President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo regarding their actions, it can easily be inferred that President Arroyo acquiesced to such acts.”

“Does anyone really believe that Bolante, et al would have been able to malverse such a gargantuan amount and continue to evade all sorts of liability without acquiescence of Malacañang?” said Gordon.

The Blue Ribbon committee wrapped up the fertilizer fund scam probe at the Senate with the 130-page report citing only 10 personalities, including Bolante, who face charges ranging from plunder to money laundering.

In his report, Gordon also noted that Mrs. Arroyo’s knowledge of the fertilizer scam was alluded to by former Department of Budget Management (DBM) secretary Emilia Boncodin in her testimony during the 13th Congress.

The Gordon report quoted a portion of the first committee report made by then Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr., which said: “When asked if the fertilizer fund request made by Usec. Bolante for the DA was upon the instruction of the President, Sec. Boncodin replied with: ‘I would imagine so.’”

Gordon said the doctrine of qualified political agency provides that all executive and administrative organizations are adjuncts of the executive department.

“The President is the chief administration office of the government. While the Constitution is not explicit about this position, by reason of her being the chief executive and the head of government, she exercises and wields all administrative powers inherent in her position,” said a portion of the executive summary of the committee report.

“Thus, while the Committee found no evidence directly linking the President to the fertilizer scam, the acts of the former undersecretary of the DA, Mr. Jocelyn Bolante, and his cohorts, now Usec. Belinda Gonzales and now GSIS Vice President Ibarra Poliquit, are deemed acts of the President since they acted within the scope of their authorities given by then Sec. Luis Lorenzo,” the committee report said.

Plunder, other charges

In the 12-page executive summary of the committee report, the Blue Ribbon panel had recommended the filing of plunder charges against Bolante.

Aside from Bolante, those recommended to be charged for plunder are former DA assistant secretary Poliquit, Leonicia Llarena, Feshan Philippines president Julie Gregorio, Feshan Philippines vice president Redentor Antolin, Marilyn Araos, Marites Aytona, Jaime Paule and DA Usec. Gonzales.

Gordon’s committee made the recommendation after it conducted hearings from Nov. 13 last year until Jan. 26.

Gordon cited evidence which showed that the personalities personally took part in the execution of the “act acquiring ill-gotten wealth through a combination or series of overt or criminal acts in the total value of at least P50 million.”

Apart from plunder, the committee also recommended that Bolante be slapped with technical malversation, money laundering, false testimony/perjury; Poliquit, technical malversation; Llarena, malversation and false testimony/perjury in solemn affirmation; Gregorio with tax evasion, money laundering, and disobedience to summons by the National Assembly; Antolin, money laundering; Araos, money laundering; Aytona, money laundering, tax evasion, false testimony/perjury and disobedience to summons; Paule, money laundering, false testimony/perjury; Gonzales, technical malversation; and Joselito Flordeliza, money laundering.

‘Pack of wolves’

In a press conference, Gordon likened Bolante and his companions to a “pack of wolves operating in the government.”

He did not discount the speculations that the funds were used “to help those who will run under the administration party including myself” in the 2004 elections.

While Gordon readily admitted to have been part of the administration coalition in 2004, the senator said he did not benefit from the fertilizer fund scam.

According to him, the Senate is also recommending amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Law by extending the period of freeze order from an additional six months to two years.

The freeze order on the assets of Bolante was lifted last December at the height of the Senate’s reopening of the inquiry.

There is also a proposed revision to the AMLA Rules and the Bank Secrecy Act to exempt public officers charged before the courts for violations of sections 3(b) and (c) under the Corrupt Practices of Public Officers.

The amendment of the procurement act would focus on the inclusion of private institutions, non-government organizations, people’s organizations and private entities that receive government monies in the coverage of the Procurement Act.

Amendments were also recommended to the Rules of Procedure governing inquiries in aid of legislation on direct contempt and the suggested standard provision to be added to the General Appropriations Act every year.

Gordon also scored the Office of the Ombudsman for dragging its feet on the issue.

The Blue Ribbon chair called for the amendment of the Constitution to make the Ombudsman an elective rather than an appointive position.

He noted that Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez is known to be close to First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, as both were reportedly schoolmates at the Ateneo de Manila University.

“We need an Ombudsman beholden to the people,” Gordon said.

The Gordon report is the second committee report dished out by the Senate Blue Ribbon committee which had recommended the filing of charges against former agriculture secretary Lorenzo, Bolante, Poliquit, Gonzales, Asec. Felix Montes, and all regional directors of the DA who participated illegally in all the transactions related to the scam.

This was in the 13th Congress when the Blue Ribbon was still headed by Sen. Magsaysay.

The Magsaysay report also cited for contempt Lorenzo and Poliquit as well as Bolante, who then fled to the United States, which was “deemed to be a deliberate attempt to escape the jurisdiction of the Senate.”

“His flight was a clear indication of guilt,” Gordon said.

It was only when Bolante came back to the country last November that the Senate reopened the fertilizer scam inquiry.

Then Senate President Manuel Villar Jr. directed the Senate Sgt-At-Arms to enforce the arrest order against Bolante upon his return/deportation from the US where he lost his appeal for political asylum.

Syndicated corruption

Meanwhile, Sen. Mar Roxas said the Senate Blue Ribbon committee report on the P728- million fertilizer fund scam illustrates the system of syndicated corruption within the government that flourished under President Arroyo.

“We have proven again and again corruption in government, and the fertilizer scam showed how officials manipulate the system to rob the coffers of the government,” Roxas said.

Roxas said Gutierrez should resign for failing to prosecute Bolante for allegedly masterminding the diversion scheme.

He stressed that overwhelming evidence – both direct and circumstantial, and documentary and testimonial – have been gathered by the committee against Bolante, giving no space for Gutierrez to claim that her office needs additional proof to pin down the former DA official.

View previous articles from this author.

By Christina Mendez
Updated February 24, 2009 12:00 AM
http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=443052&publicationSubCategoryId=63