Fertilizer fund scam witness open to tell all, share all with Ombudsman
MANILA, Philippines–The whistle-blower in the fertilizer fund scam is willing to share with the Office of the Ombudsman what he knows and the documents he has in connection with the controversy in order to help build up its case.
Jose Barredo, a self-confessed runner in the fund diversion scam, expressed openness to helping the Office of the Ombudsman after the Sandiganbayan found no probable cause against then Agriculture Secretary Cito Lorenzo and Jocelyn Bolante. He, however, said he would like the government to make him a state witness.
Barredo earlier protested his inclusion in the plunder case in connection with the alleged fertilizer fund misuse filed during the watch of former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, saying that as a lowly operative, he was not among those who had received kickbacks from public money meant for agriculture implements.
He had also expected immunity after deciding to reveal all he knew at the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee’s investigation of the issue. The committtee had not included him among those recommended charged for the scam.
“I am willing to help if they want,” Barredo told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a phone interview. “I am under the WPP [Witness Protection Program], they can ask the help of the DOJ [Department of Justice] help to get in touch with me.”
He said the Office of the Ombudsman has not officially talked with him about the case. He is also concerned because he has no lawyer helping him on the issue.
According to him, he still has some documents in his possession relating to the transactions involving the fertilizer fund. He could also narrate what he knows, and help investigators determine the people to talk to and where else to look for a paper trail.
As a runner for Marites Aytona, who allegedly fronted for Bolante, Barredo’s task was to help in approaching lawmakers, governors, and mayors to inform them about the availability of agriculture funds for the purchase of liquid fertilizer.
The runner would go to the politician to get him or her to enter into a deal, and the official would be made to sign a memorandum of agreement, which would allegedly be brought to the office of Bolante.
The officials allegedly received a commission from the transaction, which runners like Barredo delivered. The fertilizers were also supposedly overpriced.
Barredo also said he was saddened by the Sandiganbayan’s findings that there was not enough evidence against Lorenzo and Bolante.
“With all the evidence that has come out, the case is still being set aside. So that’s how our justice system works,” he said.
He also said he was concerned that his decision to come out and reveal what he knew would be put to waste, especially since he’d had to sacrifice his livelihood and his security when he chose to speak up.
He also became ill after testifying in the Senate, developing a heart ailment and becoming diabetic, he added. Since he could no longer hold a regular job given the security concerns, he said he has been having difficulty attending to his health needs.
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