105 lawmakers want Dimaporo freed

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AP File Photo

MANILA, Philippines—More than a hundred members of the House of Representatives are pushing for the temporary release of their colleague Lanao del Norte Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo, who is currently detained on charges of malversation of P5 million in public funds.

A total of 105 lawmakers have signed a resolution introduced by Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez supporting Dimaporo’s petition for bail in the Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division.

The court last week ordered Dimaporo’s arrest without bail on charges of malversation involving the alleged fictitious purchase and delivery of P5 million worth of fertilizer through a nongovernment organization (NGO) in 2004.

The transaction is one of the ghost projects in the P728-million fertilizer fund scam through which public funds were allegedly channeled to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s presidential campaign in 2004.

The Office of the Ombudsman brought the case against Dimaporo, alleging that he had faked the purchase and delivery of 10,000 bags of fertilizer supposedly for use in Arroyo’s rice production program.

The fictitious transaction was allegedly carried out through Lanao Foundation Inc., an NGO that Dimaporo organized in 1994.

Evidence not strong

Charged with Dimaporo were former provincial agriculturist Isabelo Luna and private citizens Felizardo Dragon, Evangeline Ontiveros, Rosalinda Bisenio and Elmer Sayre.

Former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-joc” Bolante, the alleged architect of the fertilizer scam, is already being tried in the Sandiganbayan in the main case involving the large-scale diversion of public funds to politics.

National Bureau of Investigation agents served the warrant on Dimaporo on Aug. 6 at Cardinal Santos Hospital in San Juan City, where he was confined after suffering a mild heart attack.

In the resolution still to be approved by the House, the lawmakers said the charges against Dimaporo did not warrant his detention during trial because he was not a flight risk and the evidence of his alleged guilt was not strong.

Dimaporo’s ‘virtues’

They hailed his virtues as a lawmaker.

“Representative Dimaporo is known for his integrity, loyalty to public service, and sincerity in the duties of representing the congressional district that he represents,” they said.

They said Dimaporo must be allowed to discharge his duties as a lawmaker while his case was pending. They said detaining him in the meantime would deprive his constituents in the second district of Lanao del Norte of representation in Congress, which is their constitutional right.

According to them, it is in the best interest of the public, the House and the government to allow Dimaporo to hold office while being tried.

“The performance of his duties will in no way put him in an advantaged position nor curtail the efficiency or adversely affect the prosecution of his case, and much less untowardly influence the outcome of the judicial proceedings,” they said.

Multi-party signatories

They said Dimaporo could be released on the recognizance of Speaker Feliciano Belmonte.

But the lawmakers also said the resolution in support of Dimaporo should not be seen as “undue interference or pressure” on the Sandiganbayan.

Those who signed the resolution are from the majority, minority, and independent blocs in the House.

Thanks for Bobby

Dimaporo’s wife, Lanao del Norte first district Rep. Imelda Dimaporo, thanked her colleagues for supporting her husband.

“No amount of words can express our gratitude to more than 100 representatives who crossed party lines, [believing] that Bobby should not be put in jail,” Dimaporo said in a statement, using her husband’s nickname.

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