Bolante must answer questions or spend jail time
MANILA, Philippines - Senator Richard Gordon on Thursday threatened former Agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante with jail time if he continues to evade questions related to the P728-million fertilizer fund mess on Friday's hearing.
In a press conference, Gordon said Bolante faces detention either at the Senate or in Pasay City Jail and even in the National Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City if he refuses to cooperate in the proceedings.
"He should prepared and be frank and candid. We can detain him in the Senate premises or in Pasay City jail or in Muntinlupa and will remain there until he decides to be more cooperative," Gordon, chairman of the Blue Ribbon committee, said.
"There are a lot of things that matter which he, allegedly, cannot remember. You can really see that he is being evasive. Who would not remember earning P200,000 a month? He evades things like that," Gordon said.
Gordon said there are at least 10 senators, going on 11, who signed the resolution citing Bolante in contempt for being evasive in answering the questions during Tuesday's hearing on the P728-million fertilizer fund scam.
"There has been a motion to cite Mr. Bolante in contempt because of his evasiveness and what appears to some members of the committee as outright lying. The Senate's contempt order is just waiting to be served," Gordon said.
The senator said Friday's hearing would be a make-or-break for Bolante as his fate – whether he would be cited in contempt by the Senate – will depend on the testimonies he will give during the hearing.
"Bolante should tell the truth in tomorrow's hearing. He should stop trying to run circles around the members of the committee because his continued freedom depends on what he would be willing to tell us tomorrow," Gordon said.
The senator clarified that Bolante is not under house arrest but under the protective custody of the Senate.
Last Tuesday, three regional directors – Roger Chio of Region 11, Leo Caneda of Region 8 and Ricardo Oblena of Region 7 – contradicted Bolante's claim that he had nothing to do with the implementation of the project.
Chio said it was Bolante who signed a purchase request for 2,000 pieces of foliar fertilizer at P1,500 each. While Oblena testified that Bolante had asked him to replace a non-government organization, named by the Kalibo local government as recipient of the funds, with the NGO National Organization for Agricultural Enhancement and Productivity Inc.
Gordon said Bolante's evasion was further magnified when he claimed that he could not recall how much salary he was getting from the GSIS.
It was Gordon who said in the hearing that Bolante received P200,000 a month from the GSIS as a member of the Board of Trustees.
The senator said Bolante and other past and present agriculture regional directors are expected to meet again in a Senate hearing Friday.
Also expected to attend are officials of the Anti-Money Laundering Council and private bank executives.
Gordon also expects the presence of Maritess Aytona, the alleged runner in the fertilizer scam. The senator said he also asked the National Bureau of Investigation to locate the "missing" fertilizer trader.
Bolante: Answer questions or spend jail time
Amita Legaspi, GMANews.TV
11/27/2008 | 01:11 PM