State lawyers ask Sandiganbayan to revive plunder case vs Lorenzo, Bolante
MANILA, Philippines–State lawyers want to revive the dismissed plunder case against former Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo and former Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc Joc” Bolante and convert one of the accused into a state witness.
In a motion to admit amended information, the prosecutors have asked the Sandiganbayan Second Division to drop Jose Barredo Jr., one of the supposed “runners” who delivered kickbacks to public officials as one of the accused in the plunder case, claiming he was not the most guilty and that his testimony was vital to the case.
The prosecutors also asked the court to admit Barredo’s December 2014 testimony as new evidence in a bid to revive the case, which was dismissed for lack of probable cause.
The plunder case lodged against Bolante and Lorenzo stemmed from the alleged racket of paying off lawmakers, governors and mayors using the P728 million fertilizer funds sourced from the Farm Input-Farm Implement program in 2004.
The said funds were said to have been diverted to Arroyo’s campaign kitty that year to pay off favored local officials in an alleged vote-buying scheme.
The accused in the plunder case were charged of “criminally amassing” P265.6 million by misappropriating funds amounting to P56.6 million, overpricing the transactions to gain P56 million, and conniving with suppliers to make a profit of another P153 million.
The case was filed before the Sandiganbayan in July 2011, but the court found no probable cause in the case three years later, or in August 2014. The court has also asked the Ombudsman to provide additional evidence.
In his latest affidavit, Barredo said he was sent as “runner” to deal with officials in signing the memoranda of agreement for the fertilizer deals and delivering these to the agriculture department where Bolante was said to have expedited the release of the funds.
Barredo has also implicated several other politicians previously not part of the plunder case in his alleged deals.
Barredo has cited a department memorandum signed by Lorenzo that was said to have fast-tracked the implementation of the agriculture program.
But Lorenzo’s defense lawyers have opposed the prosecutors’ move, and urged the court to deny the motion to admit Barredo’s affidavit as new evidence.
They said the memorandum signed by Lorenzo could not be admitted as evidence because it was already part of the evidence when the court found no probable cause.
“The aforesaid March 16, 2004, memorandum of Mr. Lorenzo is not new to the prosecution or to the Honorable Court. The Court has already considered it when it found that there is no probable cause,” Lorenzo’s motion said.
The motion also said there was nothing new in Barredo’s testimony that could reverse the court’s ruling of lack of probable cause.
“Barredo’s judicial affidavit is not an ‘additional evidence’ that can stave off the dismissal of the instant case for lack of probable cause,” Lorenzo’s motion said.
Barredo, a private fertilizer supplier, had expressed willingness to help the Ombudsman when the court in Aug. 2014 found no probable cause to charge all the accused for plunder. He had also said he would like to be admitted as state witness.
Barredo was said to be the runner for private supplier Marites Aytona, who fronted for Agriculture Undersecretary Bolante.
Bolante, meanwhile, has cleared President Arroyo in the scam, saying the release of the funds need not be approved by the president.
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