What Went Before: Lapid admitted receiving P5M cash
MANILA, Philippines–The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) reported in September 2005 that Sen. Lito Lapid, who served as Pampanga governor from 1995 to 2004, admitted receiving P5 million in cash, which he claimed was placed by the provincial government in a trust fund used to buy fertilizer and other farm inputs.
But a Pampanga farmers’ group said it did not get any support from the provincial government, the PCIJ said.
In April 2011, GMA News reported that the Ombudsman would investigate Lapid and several congressmen in connection with the P728-million fertilizer fund scam. The camp of Lapid denied that the former governor used the money from the fertilizer fund during the 2004 senatorial election.
Exposed by Lacson
The fertilizer fund controversy, in which P728 million in agricultural funds were allegedly diverted to the 2004 presidential campaign of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, was exposed in March 2004 by then presidential candidate Panfilo Lacson.
Lacson accused Arroyo of “virtual vote-buying” for allowing the release of funds to favored officials to allegedly buy farm inputs like fertilizer and pesticide for their constituents.
He questioned the timing of the release of funds and claimed that some of the districts on the list of recipients did not even have farmlands.
Taking his cue from Lacson’s accusations, lawyer Frank Chavez (now deceased) filed plunder charges against Arroyo while naming Jocelyn “Joc-joc” Bolante, former agriculture undersecretary, one of those who signed the papers for the release and disposition of the funds.
The Senate then conducted an inquiry, which began in the 13th Congress and continued in the 14th.
In October 2005, the Senate committee on agriculture chaired by then Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr., launched a probe into the scandal, with Bolante—who quit his post in September 2004—as the main witness. Bolante, however, was a no-show during the first hearing, having fled to the United States.
Bolante returned in November 2008 and appeared in the Senate, this time before the blue ribbon committee chaired by then Sen. Richard Gordon.
‘Pack of wolves’
In February 2009, the Senate blue ribbon committee concluded its investigation of the scam.
The committee recommended the prosecution of Bolante and nine others, describing them as a “pack of wolves.” It also held responsible then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, whose “gross inaction,” it said, allowed “people to get away with crime.”
In May this year, the Ombudsman dismissed for lack of evidence the graft complaint against Arroyo in connection with the fertilizer scam.
A resolution approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said allegations of Arroyo’s criminal liability for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act “lacked any factual or legal basis.”
Plunder cases against other officials, including Bolante and former Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo, are pending in the Sandiganbayan.
The dismissal of the charges against Arroyo and other developments such as the involvement of Janet Lim-Napoles, alleged brains behind the P10-billion pork barrel scam, prompted Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano to file a resolution directing the blue ribbon committee to reopen the inquiry on the fertilizer fund scam.–Inquirer Research
Sources: Inquirer Archives, GMA News, pcij.org
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