‘Shocking new evidence’ vs Joc-joc Bolante et al. | Inquirer News

‘Shocking new evidence’ vs Joc-joc Bolante et al.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales says they have newly found “evidence [against former Agriculture Secretary Luis “Cito” Lorenzo (right inset) and his former undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-joc” Bolante) that will not only make our case stronger but will also shock the world.” INQUIRER FILE PHOTOS

MANILA, Philippines–Not so fast. Former Agriculture Secretary Luis “Cito” Lorenzo, his former Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-joc” Bolante and their coaccused in the P723-million fertilizer fund scam cannot celebrate yet because the Sandiganbayan has not dismissed the case, contrary to reports on Wednesday.

What the antigraft court’s Second Division actually did was direct the Office of the Ombudsman to submit within 60 days “additional evidence” supporting its claims that Lorenzo, Bolante and their coaccused embezzled the funds intended to boost agricultural productivity by giving small farmers fertilizer, pesticide and farm implements.

“We have newly found evidence that will not only make our case stronger but will also shock the world,” Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said Thursday at the hearing on the Office of the Ombudsman’s budget for 2015 at the House of Representatives.


“We have a strong case, we are not filing a case if we do not have a strong case. We are going to comply with the order of the court. We are going to do that as directed, within 60 days from the order,” Morales said.


The report that the Sandiganbayan found no probable cause to prosecute Bolante and the others for plunder came as a shock to former Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr., chair of the Senate committee on agriculture that investigated the fertilizer fund scam in 2005.

“It’s shocking,” Magsaysay said on Thursday. “It’s a slap on the face of the Filipinos.”


Morales was calm, but pointed out that it was her predecessor, former Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro, who filed the case in July 2011, days before President Aquino named her as his graft buster.

But she said her office would do as directed by the court.

The case involves the alleged diversion of P723 million in fertilizer funds to the campaign of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2004.

Aside from Lorenzo and Bolante, also accused in the case are former Assistant Agriculture Secretary Ibarra Poliquit and fertilizer suppliers Jaime Eonzon Paule, Marilyn Araos, Joselito Flordeliza, Marites Aytona, Jose Barredo and Leonicia Marco-Llarena.

Arroyo was also accused of graft in the case, but the Ombudsman dismissed the charges against her on May 2 for lack of evidence.

Willing to help

Barredo, a confessed runner in the alleged scam, said Thursday that he was open to helping the Office of the Ombudsman in prosecuting the case but he wanted to be made a state witness.

He testified in the Senate investigation of the scam and told all he knew. The committee did not recommend charges against him, but the Ombudsman charged him along with the others when it sent the case to court.

“I am willing to help if they want,” Barredo told the Inquirer in a telephone interview on Thursday. “I am under the [Witness Protection Program], they can ask the help of the [Department of Justice] to get in touch with me.”

Barredo said he still had some documents pertaining to the transactions involved in the scam.

He said he would tell all he knew about the scam and help investigators determine whom to talk with and where to look for a paper trail that would lead to those responsible for the scandal.

As a runner for Aytona, who allegedly fronted for Bolante, Barredo’s task was to help in approaching lawmakers and local officials to inform them about the availability of funds for the purchase of fertilizer.

Barredo said he would go to the politicians and local officials to make deals and bring the papers to Bolante for approval.

He said the officials got commissions from the deals, with runners like him delivering the money to them.

Barredo also said the fertilizer was overpriced.

Sad findings

He said he was saddened by the report that the Sandiganbayan found no probable cause to prosecute Lorenzo and Bolante for plunder.

Written by Associate Justice Napoleon Inoturan and concurred in by Associate Justices Teresita Diaz-Baldos and Alexander Gesmundo, the 48-page ruling was promulgated on Aug. 15, but was officially released only yesterday.

In its decision, the court said government prosecutors failed to present evidence showing probable cause to proceed with the trial of Bolante et al. and for the court to issue warrants for their arrest.

It said the prosecution did not submit evidence proving that the accused public officials indeed benefited and received at least P50 million from the transactions involving the fertilizer funds.

“The documents presented by the prosecution are bereft of any evidence establishing probable cause against herein accused public officials for violation of the plunder law,” the court said.

“The court could already order the dismissal of the present case. However, it cannot close its eyes to the glaring badges of fraud and irregularity in the release and utilization of the P723-million fertilizer funds,” it added.

No one accused Bolante

In fact, the court said not a single witness or complainant who submitted sworn affidavits to the Ombudsman accused Bolante of pocketing at least P50 million from the amounts deposited in the account of Feshan Philippines Inc., the main supplier of the fertilizer that witnesses said was never delivered to farmers.

If at all, the court said, what the Ombudsman showed was that Bolante, Lorenzo and other government officials could be held liable for violating Section 3 of Republic Act No. 3019, or the antigraft law, which pertains to “corrupt practices of public officers.”

Unlike plunder, graft is a bailable offense.

The court also reminded the prosecutors that in plunder cases, the prosecution is required to establish “not so much the accountability for the subject funds … but its illegal acquisition by the accused public official.”

Besides claiming that the government was shortchanged because of their illegal acts, the court said the prosecution must also show that the “missing/unaccounted funds” actually went to the pocket of the accused government officials.

In the case of Bolante, it noted that he authorized the regional directors of the Department of Agriculture to distribute the funds to the intended beneficiaries and project proponents “none of whom turned out to be Bolante.”

“While it is possible that accused Bolante profited from the unliquidated funds, such suspicion requires the support of circumstances sufficiently strong in themselves,” the court said.

Accused plunderers like Bolante were not compelled to explain and account for the missing funds “but for the prosecution to establish that such funds… were amassed and accumulated” by the accused.

‘Key player’

“All told, the evidence so far presented by the prosecution fails to establish the existence of probable cause that accused Bolante, by himself or with the help of his coaccused, amassed, accumulated and/or acquired ill-gotten wealth in the aggregate amount of at least P50 million,” it concluded.

In addition, the court said the Ombudsman identified Bolante as the “key player” in the alleged misappropriation of the fertilizer funds, making Lorenzo and the other accused “coconspirators of Bolante.”

But the documents it provided in its complaint “tend to establish” that the commissions or kickbacks from the scam went to local officials, nongovernment organizations, agents and Marco-Llarena, one of the suppliers of the fertilizer.

“Thus, consistent with justice and fair play, it should be the recipients of the subject funds who should account for the alleged unliquidated portion of the fund,” the court said.

It’s plunder

Magsaysay did not agree with the court’s findings. He said the Senate agriculture committee submitted voluminous documentary and testimonial evidence, including a report from the Commission on Audit (COA), to the Office of the Ombudsman then headed by Merceditas Gutierrez.

“I feel it’s a diminution of the credibility of the Sandiganbayan and also of the Ombudsman,” Magsaysay said.

“We don’t know which of them has watered down the reports,” he added, referring to his committee’s and the COA’s reports.

He said the reports pointed to the same conclusion: “There was indeed plunder.”


New evidence in fertilizer scam to ‘shock world’—Ombudsman

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Court finds evidence vs Cito Lorenzo, Joc-joc Bolante insufficient

TAGS: Cito Lorenzo, Ombudsman, Philippines, Sandiganbayan

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