Interpellation of former Department of Agriculture Usec. Jocelyn "Joc-Joc" Bolante
Gordon: Sir nung bago kayo napunta sa agriculture you were with prudential insurance, right?
Gordon: What was your position there?
B: I was the president of Prudential Life Plan Incorporated.
Gordon: You were the president of Prudential. Certainly dapat napaka-ingat nyo dahil insurance yan di ba?
Gordon: Kayo na-appoint kayo dito at sinabi pinili lang kayo ng search committee. And wala kang alam na lumakad sa appointment mo di ba? Samakatwid nilagay ka dyan dahil maganda ang qualifications mo, galling ka sa private sector. Tama ba yun?
Gordon: At meron kang talent sa finance.
Gordon: Meron kang talent sa accounting.
Gordon: Ang hindi ko maintindihan ay bakit in spite of that, tila ba ang lumabas sa atin eh bibili kayo ng mga abono, magpo-provide kayo ng abono pero yung prudence mukhang iniwan mo sa Prudential. Naging very imprudent ka eh kasi ang lumalabas sa naririnig ko kanina pa eh tila bumili ka ng abono o fertilizer ang mga tao mo, o yung sabi mo sa baba, na yun pala eh hindi naman nababagay sapagkat ito ay for ornamental crops. Alam mo ba yun?
Bolante: Your honor, una sa lahat, hindi po kami bumili ng abono. We had no hand whatsoever on the procurement. Pangalawa po, as I said earlier, yung foliar fertilizer per se is not necessarily inappropriate, depende pos a purpose at saka usage.
Gordon: Andun na ko, but nonetheless, kahit na hindi kayo ang bumili, ikaw ay pinagkatiwalaan ng P728 million, di ba? Ang pinagtatakahan ko, yung P728 million biglang lumabas on the eve of the elections of 2004. Now, hindi ako magtataka dahil karamihan ng nakikita ko rin naman sa mga dating mga pangulo, nag-aabang ng pera yan para pag dating sa kampanya meron sila magagamit either kalsada, eskwela na ilalabas. In fact, alam nyo yan sapagkat kumuha pa kayo ng exemption sa Comelec para ma-distribute ito at nagkaroon kayo ng exemption. So lumalabas sa aking pananaw na talagang hinanda ito for 2004. Whether I'm right or wrong is immaterial. The fact is, yun ang nangyari. May perang sobra on the eve of the election at yun ay ginastos sa 2004. Now, having said that, alam nyo you commit a crime by commission or omission. Sa tingin ko parang commission yun eh. Para bang nagbigay ng pera na sobra na timing sa eve of the election, at pagkatapos, kahit na sabihin mo ang gumastos ay iba, tungkulin mo bilang a prudent executive na bantayan yung magpapagawa ng proyekto, hindi ba?
Bolante: Your honor, it is on record as you said, that the funds were actually released to us by the DBM on February 3, 2004. Therefore, it was not on the eve of the election because as far as I can remember the election was..
Gordon: In the eve of the election campaign period
Bolante: Second point is, as I have said this morning, we actually started talking with the DBM to release to us the unutilized funds under the high value crop and the rice and corn on September 4, 2003. But the DBM was not in the position to approve it immediately so we finally received the approval on February 3. But we actually, on record, requested for the release of the fund on September 4, 2003.
Gordon: Be that as it may, it was during the campaign period when it was finally released. In fact, you said 40% was released. Nagulat nga ako, humingi ka ng SARO sabay NCA on the same day 40% ang nakuha ninyo. Matindi yun. Kaming mga senador di kami makakuha ng ganyan eh. Secretary of tourism din kami hindi rin kami makakuha ng ganyan na mai-re-release yung SARO at NCA on the same day. Kasi yung NCA ibibigay lang sayo pagka-sinubmit mo na kung sinong bibigyan ng allocation di ba? Yung mga beneficiaries? Yung mga proponents?
Bolante: Not necessarily.
Gordon: Ah ganun ba? Bago yan ah?
Bolante: Actually, we could request for a lump sum release because as I said it is for an existing program.
Gordon: And it was a very urgent program di ba? Fertilizer is very urgent. So urgent in that particular year na doon lang lumobo yung requirement for fertilizer, P728 million. I remember last year or early this year meron tayong rice crisis, meron tayong oil crisis, nagmahal ang fertilizer pero wala akong nakitang urgent na move para tulungan ang mga tao sa fertilizer. Pero on that particular year 2003, on the eve of 2004 election biglang lumobo yung pangangailangan. And that was the first and last time. Before that walang lobong ganun. Hindi lumobo nung 2003. Hindi lumobo nung 2005. Nung 2004 lang nag-balloon yung fertilizer requirement, hindi po ba?
Bolante: Your honor, as I said it was not intended merely for fertilizers. As far as the DA is concerned, we opened the use of the fund for any farm input.
Gordon: It doesn't matter. Kahit na ano pa ang hatian mo ng fertilizer at other input, the point is ang pinakamalaking component nun ay fertilizer at ang fertilizer na ginamit nyo ay liquid at ang fertilizer na ginamit nyo ay isa lang ang supplier sa kabila ng napakaraming supplier. At ang fertilizer na ginamit nyo ay hindi naaangkop para sa rice. Sapagkat unang una ang stalks ng rice eh pag nilagay mo ang tubig dun tutulo yun sa baba. Eh hindi naman dapat ganun ang paglagay ng fertilizer. I don't have a green thumb. But the point is, bilang isang executive ng isang malaking kumpanya na ginagalang sa Pilipinas at bilang isang magiging kandidato ng president ng International Rotary Club, I would imagine that you have enough experience na pangangalagaan mo, you would exercise the necessary diligence in spending the people's money even though this coincidence, na pinalalabas mong coincidence na nagkaroon ng malaking requirement ng fertilizer, dapat in-exercise mo yung pagka-presidente mo noong araw ng Prudential. Ang nakikita ko salat yung exercise mo nung prudence na kinakailangan.
Bolante: Your honor, the choice of the fertilizer was not of the DA. It only came out later when we came to know, based on the reports, that much of the fund was reportedly used for the fertilizer.
Gordon: Alam nyo sir, nakakagulat. Nakakagulat, sabi nyo bigla na lang kayo nagulat panay fertilizer. Pero mas nakakgulat isa lang ang brand.
Bolante: There's no way for me to tell that, your honor.
Gordon: Ako rin eh. Doon din ako nagtataka. So coincidental naman na isang brand lang at pare-parehong liquid lamang ang ilalagay. Nakakagulat talaga yun. Sobra sobra no. Siguro kung minsan ang tingin nyo sa amin mababa ang intelligence pero di naman ako papayag, nag-aral din naman ako maging abogado. Di naman ako papayag na panay coincidence yang sinasabi natin, especially coming from somebody that I look up to, magiging presidente ng International Rotary Club, naging presidente ng Prudential. Ang nakita ko nagkulang tayo sa tinatawag na attention sa ating duty na prudence required of an executive, the due diligence required when you handle public funds because a public office is a public trust, and so much trust is given to an undersecretary na yung iyong secretary binigyan ka pa ng authority na below five million ikaw ang pipirma, di ba?
Bolante: Your honor, we are not even certain of the information that only one brand was use. We are not even certain that only one supplier was involved.
Gordon: Are you saying that the COA is wrong?
Bolante: I think that is something you must examine.
Gordon: In-examine na and you were measured although you were not here. And you were found one thing, because the COA, talo ka sa COA. Dumaan sa Senate investigation talo ka rin because sinabi hindi mo ginamit nga yung dapat na ginamit mong liderato. Hindi naman siguro lahat ng tao nagkamali at ikaw lang ang tama.
Bolante: Your honor I have not really read the COA report fully but based on the information given to me by Mr. Montes, the COA did not say that only one supplier was involved for all the 181. I think, COA got samples and on the samples used by COA there appears to be one or two or three suppliers involved.
Gordon: Meron nga pero ang pinakamarami yung Feshan. At saka hindi po ba nyo alam, hindi ba kayo nagulat 1,250%. At hindi nyo pwedeng sabihin wala na kayo hindi nyo alam, sapagkat ang totoo nyan pagkatapos nyong umalis sa DA, in-appoint kayo sa GSIS. Hindi po ba totoo yun?
Bolante: As a trustee.
Gordon: Samakatwid nasa gobyerno pa rin kayo. At sa lakas ninyo pwede nyong silipin, 'Oy, ano ba nangyari dyan?' Ang lakas ninyo, napapalabas nyo ang SARO at NCA in one day. Ang lakas ninyo na-appoint kayo na hindi kayo dumaan sa halos sa search committee, walang lumakad sa inyo. Napakalakas ninyo, samakatwid nasa GSIS kayo pwede nyo pang silipin, 'Pare ano ba nangyari dun sa liquidation nyan?' So that we don't have to rely on hearsay. Like narinig mo ngayong araw na ito sinabi 91%, sasabihin mo liquidated na lahat.
Bolante: Your honor let me clarify that when I was the trustee of the GSIS I only attended board meetings and most of the time I was not actually in the country.
Gordon: It doesn't matter. You're still in the government. You're still within striking distance of DA because that is a very influential position. Secondly, noon bang kayo ay nasa Department of Agriculture, did you have an office in the DA?
Bolante: Yes po.
Gordon: Did you go to the DA religiously?
Bolante: Yes po.
Gordon: Are you sure? Where was your office there?
Bolante: At the fourth floor po.
Gordon: Did you attend execom meetings?
Bolante: Yes po.
Gordon: Many timed?
Bolante: Yes po.
Gordon: Because there are some people who tell me that you were rarely seen in the DA, that you were really operating outside. I could always check the records there.
Bolante: That's a bad rumor po that was given to you, your honor.
Gordon: Well, I always listen to rumors because rumors are like smoke. Where there is smoke there is fire. Because you know rumors are not gonna start just like that. Having said that, let me just ask you, nung in-accuse ka na, isa pang nakakasama sa aking pananaw ay ito, in criminal law, flight is an indication of guilt. At ang lumalabas sa pananaw ng maraming tao, noong pumunta ka sa America hindi ka bumalik at nung dumating ka doon sabi mo kinansela yung iyong visa at yun ang pinaglaban mo. Humingi ka na tuloy ng asylum. Sabi nga ni Sen. Pimentel nagulat sya bakit instead for asking for reconsideration on your visa lumabas you were already asking for asylum because of a perceived threat. Is that correct? Now ang pinagtatakahan ko, for somebody who is running for president of the International Rotary Club, which is a very, very esteemed position, there's only one guy, I think, if I'm not mistaken who has done that, Mark Caparas, hindi ba?
Bolante: Yes po. But your honor, I'm not running for that position.
Gordon: But you were at that time. You were considered.
Bolante: Nobody runs for office in the Rotary International.
Gordon: But you were one of those being considered to be president. I heard that. I read about that, I heard that, I speak in the Rotary Club many times and I've been asked 'Sayang naman si Joc-Joc, sana presidente sya ng International Rotary Club.' Is that another bad rumor?
Bolante: I'm honored to hear that.
Gordon: Is that a bad rumor?
Bolante: I would say your honor that it's possible people are talking about but I would not really speculate to say that�
Gordon: But even in spite of the fact that you don't believe that and I've heard that many, many times because I speak a lot at Rotary Club functions, I have a lot of friends there, my father founded the Rotary Club in Olongapo, let me just point out na merong malaking kaso na hinaharap ka dito, instead of going back and saying I will rectify my honor, I will fly back, take the quickest plane back to Manila, you decided to stay for three years. There was no attempt on your part halimbawa, did you get your lawyers to ask for a deposition on your part para mabigay yung side mo dito?
Bolante: Yes po.
Gordon: Nagbigay ka ba ng deposition dun?
Bolante: As a matter of fact, as I told you po, I wrote on December 9
Gordon: But that's writing a letter saying that you were going to come back on January 23rd. And when that happened January 23rd, hindi ka pa rin bumalik.
Bolante: Natakot na po ako kasi may bounty na sa ulo ko.
Gordon: But is the bounty more primordial to you than your honor? In other words, the stigma that is going to be brought upon you na nagkaroon ng malaking gulo dito, na ang sinasabi ikaw ang mastermind, mas malaki ba yun sa takot? Because all of us have threats. My father was assassinated, there were three attempts to his life. He never left his job, he went on. There were two hand-grenade attempts on his life. He continued on. Kung sabagay, relative naman kung ano yung tinatawag nating real courage no. But in your case napakalaking tama yan na hindi ka bumalik. Instead of coming back here you chose to seek asylum in the United States. I did not see any press releases coming out of the United States saying 'I am not guilty of that. I'm going to come back at some future time.' Wala akong narinig na public pronouncement on your part na ganun.
Bolante: First of all, as I said, I was afraid for my life and the safety of my family. Second po, I had a pending petition with the Supreme Court of the Philippines, I was waiting for the ruling of the Supreme Court of my petition for certiorari. And third, believe it or not, we tried to publish our side on the story but unfortunately, the stories that we asked to be published were not printed at all for reason I do not know. My lawyer they tried to allow himself to be interviewed so that my side could be aired. But unfortunately, even his interviews were either not aired or they were even spliced and they were quoted out of context.
Gordon: But sir, don't you think if you had come back then instead of just now, many months or many years later, two years later, you would have more credibility and the Senate would have more respect for you because of you coming back in spite of the threat to be able to rectify or to be able to uphold your honor, instead of coming back now na after all these things na sinasabi na sa madla na yun ang nangyari. Kung bumalik kayo ng mas maaga siguro mas kapai-paniwala ang estado nyo, di ba?
Bolante: I agree with you, your honor. As a matter of fact, as I mentioned this morning, I would have even elevated again my US case to higher court and my deportation could have been postponed had I decided to do that. But finally I said, enough, I want to go home.
Gordon: That's precisely the point, your visa was cancelled upon the request siguro upon the request of the Senate committee di ba?
Bolante: I do not know.
Gordon: Biglang kinansela yung visa mo di ba?
Gordon: Eh kung bumalik ka noon at ni-rectify mo yung sinasabi doon siguro baka bibigyan ka rin ng visa ng amerikano.
Bolante: Well I'm not really interested in their visa, I'm just interested doon sa sinabi nyo po that maybe had I gone back as you said, I would have been able to clear my name much earlier. I agree with you po and that's one of my regrets in life.
Gordon: You know I really regret that eto ang nangyari sa inyo because sa akin ang nagiging conclusion ko, kasi we cannot convict you here. We have already made a recommendation at the Ombudsman to take care of your case. Siguro one of my recommendations will be to have the Ombudsman become an elected position kasi hindi lumalakad eh. So, in aid of legislation, wala akong nakikita dito except to advise future presidents not to appoint people who may have qualifications of a president of a major company who is supposed to be smart in finance but nonetheless very short on responsibility and accountability and is very derelict in his functions, allowing other people to take the blame rather than to take responsibility and say 'I should have checked, I did not check.' I never heard you say all throughout that 'I should have checked.' Because if I were in your shoes I would have probably said, 'I would have checked.' Because kahit na hindi ikaw ang responsible, you're holding on to P728 million-worth of funds pero I never heard you say, 'I would have checked' because napakalaking halaga yan na dapat alagaan natin. And that is my problem. And to my mind, this is really a project that was not niche-driven, it was demand-drive. Demands by politics, timing kayo on the campaign period, which is done also, by the way, in fairness to everybody, ginagawa talaga yan, but on the other hand, it was really, nadagdagan pa nung hindi nyo chineck kung saan napupunta yung pera kaya napakalaking gulo ang ginawa nito. And talagang the people are the poorer for it, and our honor has been tarnished again and again and again and once again.