Monday, October 27, 2008

Philippines: Former official to be arrested on return from US.

This is from the Manila Tribune.
It will be interesting to see if Bolante is actually arrested or manages to disappear. His arrest and testimony could be embarassing to the government. He knows a lot about a longstanding scandal having to do with a fertilizer fund. Some urban politicians managed to get paid from this fertilizer fund. I suppose that was to grow Arroyo lots of votes!

Senate to arrest Bolante; gov’t evasive on his arrival
By Michaela P. del Callar
The government until yesterday remained tight-lipped on the arrival of controversial former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-joc” Bolante in the country, raising the specter of a repeat of the abduction of Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada, a key Senate witness in the anomalous $320-million National Broadband Network (NBN) deal, upon his arrival from Hong Kong where he went to evade a Senate inquiry.
Lozada eventually revealed all that he knew about the controversial deal in the Senate inquiry and said that he was snatched by state agents from the airport.
Like Lozada, Bolante will likely be served a warrant of arrest from the Senate upon his arrival in Manila tomorrow because of his involvement in the P728-million fertilizer fund scam, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr said.
He added the Senate sergeant-at-arms can implement the arrest order against Bolante on the basis of an arrest warrant issued by the Senate.
Pimentel also favors the re-opening of the investigation into the fertilizer fund scam if Bolante arrives in Manila.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) was tight-lipped on details of
Bolante’s impending deportation of Bolante who was accused of diverting million of pesos supposedly for the purchase of fertilizers to the campaign fund of President Arroyo in 2004.
Foreign Affairs officials declined to give interviews and comments when asked about details and preparations being made by the government for Bolante’s on Tuesday.
DFA officials said they have not received an official report from the Philippine Consulate General in Chicago, Illinois on the deportation proceedings. The consulate in Chicago has jurisdiction on the case of Bolante, who is detained at the Kenosha county jail in the state of Wisconsin.
They said, however, the Philippine government will continue to provide assistance to Bolante until he is safely returned to Manila.
“We don’t have details of his arrival nor can we confirm that he really is coming back this week. However, the DFA, through its consulate in Chicago will provide him with whatever assistance that he needs and will ensure that his rights are protected because he is a Filipino citizen,” one official said.
DFA sources said Bolante will be escorted by US Marshals on his flight back to the Philippines.
The Tribune earlier reported that Bolante is arriving at 11 p.m. on Tuesday via Northwest Airlines Flight 71.
Bolante, who was arrested on July 7, 2006 in Los Angeles, California, was accused of diverting P728-million fertilizer funds of the Department of Agriculture to the campaign kitty of President Arroyo for her 2004 presidential bid.
In Aug. 27, the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago denied the former Deaprtment of Agriculture official’s petition for review of his asylum claim.
The court ruled that Bolante “cannot meet his burden of proof on his asylum claim” and that his “fear of persecution is objectively unreasonable” after failing to provide specific information or details about it.
With Bolante’s deportation, the Senate is expected to revive its investigation on the fertilizer fund scandal involving the President, who is facing another impeachment complaint at the House of Representatives.
The impeachment charges were filed by opposition lawmakers and were recently endorsed by former staunch ally and ex-House speaker Jose De Venecia Jr. Although lacking in numbers in the administration-controlled Lower House, De Venecia’s support is expected to give voice to the complaint, which has been quashed thrice in the past.
Pimentel added if Sen. Edgardo Angara, chairman of the committee on agriculture and food, does not want to reopen the case, the Senate Blue Ribbon committee should investigate it motu proprio.
He added the Senate blue ribbon committee can assume jurisdiction of the case from the committee on agriculture which had conducted an exhausted probe of the anomaly under the chairmanship of former Senator Ramon Magsaysay Jr.
Pimentel noted the Office of the Ombudsman has not resolved the graft charges against Bolante.
Due to the failure of the Ombudsman to decide on the case, there is still no criminal case against Bolante that can serve as basis for his arrest by law enforcement agencies.
He added that some senators have urged the Department of Justice to issue a hold departure order against Bolante to prevent him from leaving the country again and evade investigation and prosecution.
MalacaƱang insisted that the government has not prepared any special arrangement for Bolante’s arrival.
Bolante fled to the United States two years ago to evade a Senate inquiry on the fertilizer fund scam.
“Why the need for special preparations? The government does not make such plans on the return to the country of an ordinary citizen,” Deputy Presidential spokesman Anthony Golez said on radio.
Golez said Bolante’s possible return is being hyped up by critics of Mrs. Arroyo.
Golez had said if parties are really after justice, then a case should be filed against Bolante in court to get to the bottom of the fertilizer fund controversy.
“As enshrined in the Constitution, if you want to know the truth and if you want to bring justice, then it has to be brought in the right courts, in the right forum,” he said.

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