Dismay over AMLC's failure to prevent thaw of Bolante's frozen accounts
The failure of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to take necessary actions to prevent the thaw of the frozen 32 accounts believed to have been used by former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante to funnel the P728-million fertilizer fund scam dismayed independent Senator Richard J. Gordon.
Gordon, chairman of the Senate blue ribbon committee, requested AMLC Executive Director Vicente Aquino and Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera to clarify why no civil forfeiture case was filed against the Bolante accounts during the six-month effectivity of the freeze order.
"Six months, the maximum period of the freeze order the law allowed, had lapsed without a single civil forfeiture case being filed against Mr. Bolante. AMLC has been remiss on running after these suspicious Bolante accounts," he said.
During the last Dec. 10 hearing on the P728-million fertilizer fund scam, Aquino has assured the senators that the AMLC is doing its job, although it admitted that it cannot divulge any information on its ongoing investigation.
"What AMLC should have done was that, while the assets have been frozen in the six-month period, they should have filed for preliminary attachment, forfeiture or extension, Clearly, this was not done by AMLC, and ergo, they are remiss of their duties," he added.
The Court of Appeals initially issued a 20-day freeze order on Bolante accounts, and extended it further until Dec. 20, 2008 apparently to be able for AMLC to complete its comprehensive financial investigation of the questioned accounts.
The appellate court has yet to issue a certification that the questioned bank accounts may now be disposed off by Bolante, the alleged architect of the P728-million fertilizer fund scam.
"Now that the freeze order has already expired and there is no extension of the order, Bolante can no longer be prevented from withdrawing the funds. The legal impediment has now been practically lifted," Gordon said.
Gordon said that for instance the AMLC, through the Solicitor General, should file for forfeiture under "The Rules of Procedure in Cases of Civil Forfeiture under Republic Act 9160" and all legal actions available to prevent the thaw of the Bolante accounts since they (accounts) are imbued with public interest.
"These accounts could possibly involve money from the fertilizer fund the Senate is now investigating. In the interest of public accountability, these accounts should remain frozen," he said.
He explained that the panel is now focused on revealing where the fund supposedly for the Department of Agriculture's farm input-farm implement project really went.
During the Dec. 22 committee hearing, Feshan Philippines president Julie Gregorio revealed that while the company declared a P105-million sales of fertilizer from the government, the amount actually paid to them was only P50 million.
Gregorio added that the payment was deposited to an account opened at the Land Bank Philippines branch in Elliptical Circle in Quezon City under the name of a certain Malyne Araos.
"We already know that the P50 million went to Feshan. What we want to know is where the other P55 million went or who benefited from it. Since Ms. Araos is the only signatory of the bank account, she'd naturally know where it went," he added..
Gordon said the committee is on the path of gradually revealing where the P105 million of the whole P728-million fund went. The next step, he added, would be to find out on whose hands the remaining P623-million landed.