Prosecutors appeal dismissal of Bolante’s fertilizer scam raps
State prosecutors have appealed to the Sandiganbayan to reverse its decision finding no probable cause to hold former Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo and Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante on trial for the fertilizer fund scam.
In a motion for reconsideration, the Office of the Special Prosecutor said there was probable cause for the issuance of a warrant of arrest against the two for plunder.
The prosecution appealed the resolution by the Sandiganbayan Special Second Division that the prosecuting panel failed to show probable cause against Bolante, Lorenzo, and six others for plunder.
READ: Sandigan clears 2 ex-agri execs of plunder in fertilizer fund scam
Prosecutors said it was Lorenzo who delegated to Bolante the authority over the P723-million fund for the Farm Inputs Farm Implement Project during the administration of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2004.
Prosecutors said Bolante gained “absolute control” over the fertilizer fund and that Lorenzo through neglect allowed Bolante and other respondents to misappropriate the public funds for personal gain.
The panel said they were able to prove that Bolante and his cohorts diverted P56.6 million and P153 million to the accounts of the National Organization for Agriculture Enhancement and Productivity Inc. and Feshan Philippines through the anomalous sales of the fertilizers to the local chief executives and representatives.
Bolante and then Assistant Agriculture Secretary Ibarra Trinidad Poliquit also caused the downloading of the funds to the DA Regional Field Units while disregarding the official list of allocations.
Prosecutors appealed to the court not to turn a “blind eye” on the findings of the Field Investigation Office Task Force Abono, the DA, Commission on Audit, and the Senate Blue RIbbon Committee on the alleged scam.
WHAT WENT BEFORE: Fertilizer scam
“Corollary, when accused Bolante was given by accused Lorenzo the wide latitude of authority to control and dispose of the fertilizer funds, the pillage of the said fund consequently happened,” the prosecution said.
“Accused Bolante, who possessed absolute control of the funds that resulted in the large-scale misappropriation and diversion of the same, in conspiracy with all the accused, had committed the act of raid against the public treasury,” the prosecution added.
The prosecution also cited the judicial affidavit of Jose Barredo Jr., who was dropped as an accused by the Ombudsman to turn him as state witness.
In his affidavit, Barredo alleged that he was sent as a “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 also exposed the receipt of kickbacks or SOP (standard operating procedure) to several public officials who allegedly participated in the anomalous agricultural projects, the prosecution said.
The prosecution said it would be too premature for the court to expect the prosecutors to prove how the alleged commissions ended up in the personal account of the accused.
“The scheme on effecting raid of the public treasury was such that the public fund was treated and used as if it were the personal fund of the accused, such that it becomes unnecessary to present proof at this early stage that such public fund found its way to the personal account of the accused, as what the Honorable Court wanted the prosecution to prove,” the prosecutors said.
The prosecutors also appealed for the court to reverse its decision of not finding probable cause against the private players—fertilizer dealers Jaime Paule, Marilyn Araos, Joselito Flordeliza, Marites Aytona, and Leonicia Marco-Llarena, whose role in the scheme played a part in the “fruition” of the scam.
“Taken all together, it is difficult to turn a blind eye and disregard all the foregoing findings … These findings … undeniably show the existence of probable cause in order to hold the accused for trial,” the prosecutors said.
In its resolution, the court said the prosecution failed to provide evidence that would actually link Bolante to the act of plunder.
“There is no document and/or testimony submitted to establish that accused Bolante received this unliquidated amount so as to make him probably guilty of the crime of plunder,” the court said.
The court found Barredo’s 20-page judicial affidavit to be lacking, because it only detailed “the modus operandi of the fertilizer scam, the persons who were offered, or had received and how the ‘SOP,’ or commissions were distributed.”
The prosecutors’ evidence also failed to show “that the fund eventually ended up with Bolante.”
Lorenzo, Bolante and their coaccused were charged with plunder for allegedly accumulating P265.6 million in kickbacks from the P723-million funds.
Plunder, a criminal charge involving earning at least P50-million in ill-gotten wealth, is a nonbailable offense.
The plunder case lodged against Bolante and Lorenzo stemmed from the alleged racket of paying off lawmakers, governors and mayors using the fertilizer fund 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 Ombudsman cleared Arroyo of liability for the supposed scam.
The scheme is done by overpricing the fertilizers originally priced at P150 from supplier Feshan Philippines to as much as P1,500 when the LGUs bought it from the distributor Araos Trading.
The dealers also diluted the liquid fertilizers with water to further bring down the price from P350 to as low as P150 per one liter bottle./rga
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