Lessons from Senate inquiry
The first round of Senate inquiry over so-called fertilizer scam from its suspected chief architect, Joc Joc Bolante that took a punishing 10-hour period on national TV in a question and answer format that in the end yielded no concrete evidence than mere presumptive facts leaves nothing more to the imagination. Even if a second round ought to be undertaken up to the point all senators would have been exasperated in having to ask further questions from an individual who indicatively follows a script or either evades a question by feigning non-remembrance or non-involvement, still the whole useless exercise is akin to extracting oil from the ocean floor. In other words, Joc Joc has ready answers to questions that seemingly appear as calculated not really to ferret out the truth any more than to simply satisfy the requirement of a mere inquisitorial ritual. In the end, the Senate hearing failed to prove that in a scam of such gravity and magnitude, it is the single ultimate way that would separate the chaff from the grain except it did not.
In this Senate inquiry albeit generally baloney, few lessons may be drawn. First, the Presidential Management Staff or search committee of Malacanang recruits individuals based on merit system that the appointee does not have to have a backer like a First Gentleman or any fellow Rotarian. Second, a public official in the rank of an undersecretary enjoys full fiscal autonomy over a P730 million fund as to even necessitate the go-signal of the President – be that a delegated power or otherwise – to disburse such public money based on terms of reference known only to him. Third, one can grab appointment as undersecretary in the Department of Agriculture even without any professional or academic background in agri-related fields of specialty provided you are a president of an insurance company. Fourth, as undersecretary, one can spend most of his time in personal commitments abroad thereby exempting him from any responsibility resulting from such leave or absence with pay.
Fifth, it is the duty of a public official especially of an undersecretary for finance to serve as kamikaze when the president is under siege for perceived scams or payolas. Sixth, it is impossible for a Joc Joc to do a Lozada but not vice versa. Seventh, the name Joc Joc Bolante should rather read other way since he appears like a worm that can wiggle his way and bury itself in mud without feeling shame. Eight, the minimum requirement for a response to an invitation, subpoena or warrant by the Senate is at least a period of 3 to 4 years without being cited in contempt. Ninth, an undersecretary or even perhaps a full-fledged cabinet secretary does not have to know who Rep. Jose De Venecia, Jr. is in our national life even as any ordinary mortal knows he is the only congressman who has held the speakership for the fifth time and lesser ones like Augusto Syjuco, head of TESDA and Marcelino Libanan, head of the Bureau of Immigration, to name more. Tenth, the hospital where Joc Joc sought treatment should have more correctly diagnosed him for amnesia rather than for ulcer or fluctuating hypertension, if there is such a thing.
Eleventh, Joc Joc has only proven that 3 to 4 years are long enough time to forget all about what he did at DA as undersecretary. Twelfth, the concepts used in bureaucratic parlance such as – activity, project, program – in the end for Joc Joc mean one and the same thing and can be used interchangeably when in truth, each term carries another meaning from the rest. Thirteenth, it is normal in the bureaucracy to resign one’s post as undersecretary but effective after three or more months ahead, at least to fix all loose ends that might indicatively involve the President. Fourteenth, every public fund appropriated for subsequent release follows the profit sharing scheme of 25% for Bolante, 20% for the supplier and 30% for the proponent (governor, mayor, congressman) which made lady Miriam shake his head in utter disbelief.
Fifteenth, to approve fund requests for farm inputs or farm implements to a governor, to a congressman, and to an x number of mayors within the same geo-political territory does not at all speak of patronage politics nor of double funding as the good Pia Cayetano tries to argue with Joc Joc. Sixteenth, it is the Senate’s fault altogether for sending the invitation to a resource person like Joc Joc in a Senate investigation the very same day such public hearing is scheduled thus making it impossible to oblige. Seventeenth, in order that a resource person will appear before the Senate to testify, there shall not be any prior announcement all over media that a bounty has been offered. Eighteenth, the set of words or phrases like – ‘I don’t know him (JDV)’, ‘I can’t remember’, ‘… my belief’, ‘I apologize your Honors’, ‘I didn’t bring out records of DA’, ‘not a single centavo goes to the congressmen’, ‘… in the focal list’, ‘funds in the regular budget do not need the approval of the President’, et cetera et cetera – are variations in a thematic act of lying. Nineteenth, sporting white hair, getting thin, or malingering ill but not quite than last seen in public provides soothing effect to Joc Joc who is supposed to have earned the ire of senators.
Twentieth, to survive the ordeal of an uncharacteristically friendly Senate inquiry, Joc Joc only has to confront questions with his own indeterminate answers based on what he recalls or remembers in a never arrogant nor abrasive but low key fashion without looking even remotely intimidated.
Given all conclusions we can deduce from this whole exercise, we can only say that nothing in the facts or circumstances he testified to can really be taken against him precisely because to begin with, not one senator has really asked the more important questions that would have pressed Joc Joc to elicit more relevant and substantive revelations. At the very least, there was not an instance where Joc Joc must have been required to show proof, evidence, fact, or testimony that can pass scrutiny – not a single one. It was not a grilling session altogether but a remarkably cordial, friendly, courteous and sweet process of just getting interviewed before that Senate panel.
Where signs indicate, the poverty of any kind of Senate inquiry leaves nothing more to be desired. We all know that at the end of the day, when every senator would have been asked to vote whether or not Joc Joc should be found guilty of malversation of public funds, perjury, plunder or whatever, the votes will point to Joc Joc’s way out of the crimes imputed to him. It is grossly injurious to all taxpayers to realize that after all is said and done, Joc Joc will come out of the supposed-to-be torture chamber with the verdict that no penalty can ever be applied to him due largely to the fact that case building has not been pushed hard enough to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. RP is doomed!