"What this Country needs is not a change OF men but a change IN men" March 1980

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Senate blue ribbon panel orders the arrest of Bolante

The Senate blue ribbon committee today ordered the immediate arrest of former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante for giving several evasive testimonies before senators probing his alleged involvement into the P728-million fertilizer fund scam.

Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon made the announcement after 11 of the 17 members of the panel he chairs have signed the resolution which cited eight evasive statements made by Bolante as bases for the Senate's contempt order.

"We have obtained a majority of votes to cite Mr. Bolante in contempt, arrest him, and have him detained here at the Senate," he said in a press briefing after a caucus with the members of the committee.

Among those who signed the contempt order were Senators Gordon, Mar Roxas, Aquilino Pimentel, Panfilo Lacson, Gregorio Honasan, Rodolfo Biazon, Francis Escudero, Ramon Revilla Jr., Pia Cayetano, Jinggoy Estrada, and Loren Legarda.

Gordon said they are only waiting for the signature of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile to have the order served by the Senate sergeant-at-arms.

The blue ribbon chair said that Bolante's contradicting statements and continuous evasiveness during the panel's hearings last Nov. 13, 25, & 28, on the fertilizer fund program were enough bases to have the former agriculture undersecretary be held for contempt.

Gordon said that during the hearings, Bolante maintained that his only role in the program was to "download" the funds, and that it was a regular program of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

However, DA Regional Field Unit (RFU) directors contradicted Bolante's statements, saying that the Farm Inputs-Farm Implements program was never a regular project of the department.

The regional directors also said that letters of instruction and purchase orders regarding the program were signed by Bolante, thereby opposing his statement that he was not part of the implementation of the project.

"During the hearings, we have already proven that Bolante was on top of these things. He was the one in-charge of this program. And the regional directors all attested to that," Gordon said.

Gordon said that during the caucus, the senators also agreed to amend the rules of the Senate and the Senate blue ribbon committee in citing a person in contempt.

In the amended rules, the committee, through a majority vote of its members, may punish for contempt any witness before it who disobeys the order of the committee, including refusal to produce documents pursuant to a subpoena duces tecum, or refuses to be sworn or to testify or to answer a proper question by the committee or any of its members, or testifying, testifies falsely or evasively.

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