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Bolante goes to CA for relief

By Norman Bordadora, Christine Avendao, Julie M. Aurelio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:10:00 11/04/2008

Filed Under: Graft & Corruption, Government, Joc-joc Bolante

MANILA, Philippines?Former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocely ?Joc-Joc? Bolante on Monday filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Court of Appeals seeking his release from Senate custody.

The 15-page petition, filed by his son Owen, said that the Senate?s order of arrest in the 13th Congress had no more legal effect and that the Senate rules on inquiries in aid of legislation did not allow for such detention.

The petition urged the court to issue a writ of habeas corpus directing the Senate to produce Bolante before it ?at the soonest possible time and to declare the arrest and detention unlawful.?

Bolante, alleged architect of the diversion of P728 million in fertilizer subsidies to fund President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo?s 2004 election campaign, was arrested by the Senate sergeant at arms on his return last week to Manila but he was whisked off to St. Luke?s Medical Center in Quezon City for examination.

He had been detained for two years in the United States and was deported last week after his petition for asylum on grounds his life was in danger in the Philippines was dismissed by American officials.

Hearing next week

Bolante?s lawyer Antonio Zulueta earlier filed a petition in the Supreme Court questioning the legality of the Senate arrest order for Bolante?s failure to attend its hearings in 2005, and asked that a temporary restraining order be issued against his arrest.

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano said Monday the Senate blue ribbon committee will start holding hearings on the fertilizer scam late next week. He said he expected no interference from the Supreme Court following the required publication of the Senate rules for the 14th Congress.

He also said the Senate would by then be able to assess the medical fitness of Bolante.

Going by the book

?We will respect and answer anything the Supreme Court will ask us to answer but we?re well within our rights to continue the investigation if there is no temporary restraining order issued and we are not expecting a TRO because precisely we?re doing this by the book,? Cayetano said.

He was referring to the contention of Sen. Edgardo Angara that the high court should determine whether the Senate or the Ombudsman had jurisdiction over a Bolante investigation following the issuance of a final report by the previous Senate committees that looked into the fertilizer scam three years ago.

Cayetano dismissed as ?forum shopping? Bolante?s habeas corpus petition.

?The easiest way for him to rid himself of the contempt and arrest order is to simply testify in the Senate,? he said. ?Why is he so scared of testifying? If you tell the truth, there?s nothing to be scared about.?

On Monday Sen. Joker Arroyo, then chair of the blue ribbon committee which together with then Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr.?s agriculture committee investigated the fertilizer fund scam in 2005, threw his support behind Angara.

Arroyo contended that the arrest order issued by the Senate during the 13th Congress ?can no longer be enforced, it is legally defunct.?

?The next move is now up to the Ombudsman or the Department of Justice. The Senate has done its job,? Arroyo said.

Birthday wish

In a lunch news conference, Cayetano, who turned 38 on Oct. 29, said his birthday wish was for the truth to come out in the scam.

?Since Bolante returned home near my birthday, my wish is there will be no obstacles in investigating him,? he told reporters.

Cayetano quoted from the Magsaysay report that although final ?the fertilizer fund scam will never be closed without the testimony of its brains and implementor.?

?Even if this is a final report, this provides an opening that underscores the need for Bolante to testify,? he said.

Cayetano also said the Senate was conducting its probe in aid of legislation while the Ombudsman?s job was criminal prosecution.

Doctors on Monday said Bolante will have to undergo more tests after initial examination revealed he was suffering from multiple gastric ulcers.

More medical tests

In a medical bulletin, St. Luke?s officials said Bolante would have to undergo an MRI and MRA of the brain after he complained of unsteadiness after a stress test.

Hospital spokesperson Marilen Lagniton said results of the latest tests had been sent to Senate physician Mariano Blancia.

Monday?s update included the results of stress tests or treadmill exercise tests, a gastroscopy, colonoscopy, CT scan of the abdomen and coronary CT angiography.

?Findings reveal the presence of multiple gastric ulcers, esophagitis and erosive gastritis, which tested positive for H-pylori (a bacteria in the upper gastrointestinal tract),? the bulletin said.

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