Ombudsman derelict of duty
The Ombudsman is derelict in its duty of investigating and filing appropriate charges against those government officials implicated in the P728-million fertilizer fund scam said Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today.
Gordon, chairman of the Senate blue ribbon committee probing the anomalous project, said that despite having more than a thousand days to charge officials implicated in the project, the Ombudsman has failed to do so.
"The case has been here in the Senate for more than 1,019 days and up to now the Ombudsman has not filed a single case. If the case is under litigation, the bank secrecy law can be pierced because this is a serious matter of dereliction of duty," he said.
If only the Ombudsman had filed a case against former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante, Gordon explained that the government would have been able to look into his alleged 32 accounts before the freeze order on the accounts lapsed.
The accounts were frozen through the petition of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) but were thawed after the six-month effectivity period of the freeze order expired last Dec. 20.
During the hearing on the fertilizer fund scam last Tuesday, Bolante admitted he was able to withdraw money from the accounts after it was unfrozen.
Invoking his right under the Bank Secrecy Law, Bolante declined to disclose how much and from which accounts he withdrew the money. He also refused to issue a waiver allowing authorities to look into his questioned accounts for the sake of transparency.
"Unfortunately, there seems to be dereliction of duty on the part of the Ombudsman. The Senate has been investigating this (issue) for more than 1,019 days in two Congresses, pero wala pang pina-file sapagkat kung merong kaso, hindi makukuha ang perang yan," Gordon said.
The Senate blue ribbon committee's probe under Gordon has unearthed strong documentary and testimonial evidence on Bolante's direct participation in the implementation of the Department of Agriculture's farm input-farm implement project.
During the Nov. 25 hearing of the committee, all DA regional directors testified they received respective memoranda signed by Bolante, which clearly stated the project proponents, whether local government unit or congressional district, to whom allotments were transferred.
Furthermore, Director Roger Chio of DA Region 11, said it was Bolante who signed a purchase request for 2,000 pieces of foliar fertilizer at P1,500 each.
Dir. Ricardo Oblena of Region 7 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.
Meanwhile, new witness businessman Natalio Castillo Jr., who appeared in the hearing last Tuesday, said that Jaime Paule offered him to take part in the project.
Quite skeptical of Paule's capability to obtain such a project, Castillo asked who his contact in the DA was. Paule told him it was Joc-Joc Bolante.