This is from the Tribune (Manila). Arroyo and her deal making spouse are likely to wriggle free from all this as usual. The surprise witness may disappear or chicken out or whatever. Stay tuned for Fertilizer Scam Part 15 tomorrow or the next day with a cast of dozens including Joc-Joc, Arroyo, First Gentleman Mike etc.
A ‘surprise witness’ to pin Joc-joc on scam
By Angie M. Rosales
It may be all over for former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-joc” Bolante when a “surprise witness” who reportedly has personal knowledge of the P728-million fertilizer fund scam finally surfaces before the Senate blue ribbon committee.
The surprise witness is to further pin down Bolante as being the architect in the alleged misuse, some four years ago, of the department’s fertilizer fund.
The witness, unimpeachable sources yesterday revealed, is likely to name names, including naming one of the alleged bagmen of First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo.
It has been talked about, for sometime, that the First Gentleman was allegedly heavily involved in the campaign and its “funding” for his wife’s 2004 presidential run.
But there is still no certainty that the unnamed witness, known to be knowledgeable on the purported modus operandi perpetrated by Bolante
in the disbursement of funds, will appear in today’s continuation of the inquiry as safety and well-being of the witness are still being arranged, along with the needed documents to back up the testimony, it was gathered.
The appearance of the unnamed witness is seen to trigger the surfacing of other supposed key players in the fund scam, substantiating allegations made in the previous Senate inquiry into the farm inputs and farm implements program during the 13th Congress, under the helm of Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr., sources added.
As this developed, majority of the blue ribbon committee members handling the inquiry favor the call to put in detention anew Bolante by the upper chamber.
Most likely, Bolante may find himself being held in custody by the Senate when proceedings resume today.
Committee chairman Sen. Richard Gordon yesterday said there are already 11 of his panel members who had signed, approving the motion made by opposition Sen. Panfilo Lacson to cite in contempt Bolante, as they have found him to be evasive in answering their queries during last Tuesday’s continuation of their probe.
“We have the votes. That’s why he should prepare himself very well, be frank and candid and not be evasive tomorrow. I mean, this is a big hint. We have 11 signatures already. There are 17 members and we only need nine (to constitute the majority),” the senator said during the weekly Kapihan sa Senado breakfast forum.
“Depending on the committee, I’m preparing the instances when Bolante had been caught lying or had been practically evasive…I already warned him,” Gordon said.
“I want to make it clear, Bolante is not under arrest, he’s not under house arrest, he’s in his house, he is escorted by the Senate principally because he has said that he fears for his life. He is under protective custody of the Senate. I am told by the (Senate) Sergeant-at-Arms that he is able to go wherever he wants. (But) we can detain him in any detention center that we see fit,” the senator said.
Expected to attend the hearing are former DA regional directors who were served the department at the time of the supposed perpetration of the fund scam.
“They are expected to shed more light especially to sustain what (DA Reg. 11) Dir. (Roger) Choi has stated (in the last proceedings) that directions were taken from Bolante and at the same time, to sustain the statement made by (DA Reg.7 Dir. Ricardo) Oblena of the fact that Bolante commanded to change the NGO (non-government organization) concerned,” the senator said.
Oblena, when cornered by Senate probers in the last hearing, confessed that he had received instructions through a phone call from Bolante, supposedly to change the name of the NGO-recipient of the funds for the submission of documents for liquidation, some two months after actual deliveries were made.
Earlier, Gordon ordered the National Bureau of Investigations (NBI) to locate the whereabouts of Maritess Aytona, Bolante’s alleged runner for some of the funds distributed in the Visayan region, after the Senate’s process servers failed to serve the invitation for her appear in today’s hearing as the Senate resumes its investigation on the fertilizer fund scam.
He added that they wanted to invite Aytona and compel her to appear in a face-off with Bolante.
“Right now, we have the lawyers saying that they are going to bring her here. We’re not quite sure whether that is going to happen. But tomorrow, we also expect more breakthroughs in the matter because of the fact that the AMLC (Anti-Money Laundering Council) will shed light on the deposits,” he said.
“We will get the AMLC to come down to make that report,” added Gordon.
Aytona was earlier identified as the individual who proposed a 30-30-40 sharing scheme for the P5-million fertilizer allocation-30 percent for the congressman, 30 percent for Bolante, and 40 percent for the purchase of liquid fertilizer.
Bolante has denied knowing her and Capiz Rep. Antonio del Rosario, who claimed that Aytona and her cohort, Jose Barredo, had offered him a cut of the P5-million fertilizer fund.
Aytona, in the submitted sworn affidavit of Barredo to the Magsaysay committee in October 2005, was identified as being connected with the supposed fertilizer supplier Feshan Philippines Inc.
The said company, according to Barredo is alleged to be “connected” with Bolante and was supposedly tapped to exclusively supply the liquid fertilizer of local government officials – congressmen and governors, sometime during the 2004 presidential elections.
Barredo attested before the Senate panel of having worked closely with Aytona in the “marketing” of liquid fertilizers to LGUs beginning January 2004.
Barredo identified several municipalities and congressional districts in Bulacan and legislative districts in Region 6 as his area of operation.
The blue ribbon chairman has also requested the Philippine Embassy in Singapore to secure immediately the deposition of Derek Glass, the Singaporean incorporator of Feshan.
Gordon issued the request to Ambassador Minda Cruz on Glass company’s participation in the fund scam in the hope of clarifying a statement purportedly attributed to Glass that the latter was not aware of the contract his company entered with the government.
He also wanted to verify reports that the liquid fertilizers delivered were allegedly of sub-standard quality.
Based on media reports, Glass earlier claimed the company and the Bio-Nature fertilizer brand might have been “used” unscrupulously by his local partners. He disavowed involvement in the scam and said he was surprised to be linked to it.
Glass also reportedly denied that Bio-Nature fertilizer, made by the Singapore-based Bio Nature Technology of which he is a major stockholder.