More DA Directors Link Bolante to Fertilizer Scandal

Article excerpt

More provincial directors of the Department of Agriculture (DA) yesterday claimed that former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn "Jocjoc" Bolante had a direct hand in the multi-million peso fertilizer project in 2004.

At the continuation of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on the P728-million fertilizer project scandal, Dennis Araullo, former DA director for Region 4-A, said that he received from Bolante a memorandum authorizing him to enter into several memorandums of agreement (MOA) with some local government units and non-government units to implement the farm inputs -- farm implements (FI-FI) program.

The FI-FI is a program under the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani (GMA) project of the DA.

Araullo said the DA central office released funds for the FI-FI program between March and April of 2004.

According to Araullo, there were many instances when Bolante specified the beneficiaries and proponents of the program.

In some cases, the representatives of the beneficiaries and proponents even approached him to follow up on their MOAs, Araullo said.

"I had no recourse but to comply by releasing funds," Araullo told senators during the hearing, adding that proponents showed him letters informing them they had allocations from the FI-FI. The letters were signed by Bolante, he said.

Gumersindo Lasam, DA executive director for Region 2, recalled a similar experience as did Ricardo Oblena, then DA director for Region 6.

Oscar Parawan, DA Region 9 director, meanwhile, pointed to a letter of Bolante "identifying the proponent, congressional district and allotment advice."

Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, upon hearing the testimonies of the DA regional directors, said that "it appears Bolante was directing the whole operation" contrary to his earlier claims that he did not have any direct hand in the distribution of the funds.

With the revelation, senators deemed that the testimonies of the regional directors will strengthen the case against Bolante.

"We have established here that the regional directors did not ask for this project. At no time was this part of any kind of planning or projection or vision-mission-objectives key result areas," said Sen. Manuel Roxas II.

Senators failed to obtain relevant details on Bolante's alleged bank accounts which Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Panfilo Lacson had disclosed in the previous hearing as bank officials at the hearing invoked the Bank Secrecy Law or Republic Act 1405.

Catherine Buntua, branch manager of RCBC Legazpi Village branch; Grace Lucero, branch manager of BPI Legaspi Village branch; Raul Arcilla, branch manager of Union Bank GSIS branch and Thet de Guzman, sales/relation manager of Union Bank Pasay City branch, refused to divulge details of Bolante's accounts citing the Bank Secrecy Law.

Bolante said he had 23 accounts in his name in several banks, but only two are active.

But in the hearing, Lacson told Bolante he had documents that showed he (Bolante) had 37 bank accounts. …