Bolante charged

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE Senate Blue Ribbon Committee yesterday lodged criminal charges against former Agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante before the Department of Justice for repeatedly snubbing Congressional hearings and giving false testimony.

The complaint filed by Rodolfo Noel Quimbo, director general of the committee, said “there is prima facie evidence to warrant the conclusion that Bolante committed violations of Article 150 and 183 of the Revised Penal Code and is probably guilty thereof.

”Formal charges for disobedience to summons and eight counts of false testimony have been filed against Mr. Bolante. This should serve as a strong warning not only to Bolante, but also to other witnesses who would testify before the Senate. We expect the court to act promptly on the case,” Blue Ribbon chairman Sen. Richard Gordon said.

But Gordon also had good news for Bolante.

Ten members of the Senate Blue Ribbon panel decided to release the former agriculture official.

“Hindi naman namin gustong ikulong ‘yan (Bolante) hanggang Pasko. Ang sabi ko kapag na-file na ang kaso sa Department of Justice i-re-release na ‘yan,” Gordon said in a briefing.

He stressed that the Senate did not intend to deprive Bolante of spending Christmas with his family. “Gusto namin i-release kayo sa lalong madaling panahon,. Ang sinabi ko Monday ma re-release kayo kaya lang hindi natuloy wala tayong quorum. But I will sign the order now,” he informed Bolante.

The next hearing on the alleged fertilizer fund scam was set on December 17, 12 noon.

Gordon explained that the case for disobedience to summons was filed against Bolante for his failure and refusal to appear before the Senate committee on agriculture and food, and the Blue Ribbon panel.

Bolante was summoned in 2005 to appear as a witness at the Oct. 6 and 26, Nov. 17, and Dec.12 hearings of the Senate but failed and refused to appear and testify before the Senate committees.

Disobedience to Congress’ summons is punishable by a jail term of one month and one day to six months (arresto mayor).

Gordon also filed eight counts of false testimony against Bolante for his statements before the Blue Ribbon panel during the Nov. 13, 25 and 28 hearings that were contradictory to the testimonies of the other witnesses.

In his testimonies under oath, Bolante maintained that the distribution of funds by his office was a regular program of the Department of Agriculture, but this was contradicted by DA regional directors.

DA directors Roger Chio and Leo Cañeda both said that there was no such program in previous years or at any time after 2004.

Bolante said his role in the implementation of the Farm Input-Farm Implement project was only to “download” the funds, leaving the RDs to implement it. However, all the RDs said their authority to enter into a memorandum of agreement was only limited to P1 million.

Chio presented a purchase order signed by Bolante, while Dir. Ricardo Oblena said Bolante called him up and instructed him to change the beneficiary of the program.

On Bolante’s statement that he did not know who recommended him to be undersecretary of DA, Gordon, in his complaint, argued that it is contrary to human nature that Bolante merely accepted the appointment without knowing the identity of the persons behind his appointment.

Gordon also said that Bolante could not have merely been invited to be a Trustee of the Go-vernment Service Insu-rance System by Bernardino Abes, as he stated before the committee, because members of the GSIS Board of Trustees are appointed by the President.

Meanwhile, the Commission on Audit qualified Bolante’s claim that the funds for the FIFI project were fully liquidated, saying that the funds were traced but the use and the manner of procurement of the fertilizers are still improper.