Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Thursday, October 30, 2008

105 congressmen received funds from Jocjoc

Vicente Magsaysay of Zambales was among the 53 governor-recipients from JocJoc's list.

One hundred five administration allies in the House of Representatives received P3 million to P5 million in fertilizer funds in 2004 from then agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn “Jocjoc” Bolante.

The congressmen were listed as “proponents” by Bolante in a letter he sent to Malacañang on Feb. 2, 2004, three months before the May presidential election, in which he requested for the release of P728 million in fertilizer money.

The following day, Feb. 3, the controversial agriculture official got the funds he requested.

The fertilizer fund “proponents” listed by Bolante in his letter were led by then Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., who was allocated P5 million, and his successor, Speaker Prospero Nograles, who was allotted P3 million.

Fifty-two governors, one vice governor and 23 town mayors were also named proponents. The STAR has a copy of Bolante’s list.

Aside from De Venecia, nine other congressmen from the Ilocos region and Cagayan Valley received fertilizer funds. They included Deputy Speaker Eric Singson, who represents Ilocos Sur’s second district.

Fourteen House members from Central Luzon were given fertilizer money. They included Education Secretary Jesli Lapus, then a Tarlac congressman, and then Pampanga Rep. Zenaida Ducut, who now chairs the Energy Regulatory Commission.

Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, who was a Tarlac congressman in 2004 like Lapus, was not given fertilizer funds.

Among the eight recipients in Southern Tagalog were Elenita Ermita-Buhain of Batangas, daughter of Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, and Aleta Suarez of Quezon, who was succeeded in the present Congress by husband Danilo Suarez, one of President Arroyo’s favorite companions on her foreign trips.

Only five Bicol congressmen were given fertilizer fund allocations. They included then Albay congressman and now Gov. Joey Salceda and Sorsogon’s Jose Solis.

In the Visayas, the proponent-recipients included then Iloilo City representative and now Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, then Cebu congressman and now Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano, Monico Puentebella of Bacolod City, and then Eastern Samar congressman and now Immigration Commissioner Marcelino Libanan.

Puentebella, Reylina Nicolas of Bulacan and some other House members had been accused by a Senate witness, Jose Barredo, a fertilizer supplier’s agent, of allegedly demanding huge commissions from him. The lawmakers denied the accusation.

In Mindanao, aside from Nograles who represents Davao City’s first district, the recipients included then Deputy Speaker Gerry Salapuddin.

Several House members from Metro Manila were also listed as proponents. They included Maite Defensor and Nanette Daza of Quezon City, Federico Sandoval of Malabon-Navotas, Teodoro Locsin Jr. of Makati, and Cynthia Villar of Las Piñas. Defensor, Locsin and Villar have since denied receiving fertilizer funds.

Among the 53 governor-recipients were Luis Villafuerte of Camarines Sur, who is now a congressman; Pedro Romualdo of Camiguin, also now a congressman; Carmencita Reyes of Marinduque, now a congresswoman; and Emmanuel Piñol of North Cotabato, now vice govenor of his province; Joel Reyes of Palawan and Vicente Magsaysay of Zambales.

The only vice governor in Bolante’s list was Isidro Zayco of Negros Occidental, who was allocated P5 million. His governor, Joseph Maranon, received another P5 million.

Of the more than one thousand town mayors, 23 were on Bolante’s list of fertilizer fund recipients. Of the 23, nine were from Isabela (Alicia, Aurora, Echague, Gamu, Maconacon, Malig, Quirino, San Mateo, and Tumauini) and six from Lanao del Sur (Tamparan, Wao, Bualiposo-Buntong, Bubong, Lumba-Bayabao, and Marawi City).

The other town mayor-recipients are from Kalibo and Malinao in Aklan, Buenavista and Nasipit in Agusan del Norte, Butuan City, Himamaylan in Negros Occidental, Tanay in Rizal, and Sadiaran in Lanao del Sur.

Unlike House members who were given either P3 million or P5 million, governors received a uniform allocation of P5 million each. As for town mayors, two (Butuan City and Kalibo) got P5 million each, four (Himamaylan, Nasipit, Buenavista, and Malinao) received P3 million each, while the remaining 17 were given P2 million each.

Bolante did not explain in his letter the criteria he used in choosing the recipient-proponents and the varying amounts of funds he allotted to them.

The opposition claims Mrs. Arroyo’s allies used the funds to boost her chances of victory over the late popular actor Fernando Poe Jr. in the May 2004 presidential election. She beat Poe by about a million votes.

According to the Commission on Audit, many of the recipients used their funds to buy liquid fertilizer that auditors found overpriced by up to 1,500 percent.

Several congressmen listed as “proponents” claimed they did not request for the fertilizer money. They said they just received letters from Bolante informing them of the allocation of fertilizer funds for their districts. By Jess Diaz - PhilStar

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