Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bolante charged in court for disobedience and false testimony

Formal charges against former undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante for disobedience to Senate's summons and for false testimony on his alleged involvement in the P728-million fertilizer fund scam were filed today by independent Senator Richard J. Gordon.

Gordon, chairman of the Senate blue ribbon committee, filed the charges at the Department of Justice for violations of Articles 150 (disobedience to summons) and 183 (false testimony) of the Revised Penal Code.

"Formal charges for disobedience to summons and eight counts of false testimony have been filed against Mr. Bolante. This should serve as a strong warning not only to Bolante, but also to other witnesses who would testify before the Senate," he said.

"We expect the court to act promptly on the case," he added.

Gordon explained that the case for disobedience to summons was filed against Bolante for his failure and refusal to appear before the Senate committee on agriculture and food, and the blue ribbon committee of the 13th Congress.

Bolante was summoned to appear as a witness on the Oct. 6 and 26, Nov. 17, and Dec. 12, 2005 hearings of the Senate. But despite proper service of notices of hearings and subpoenas, Bolante failed and refused to appear and testify before the Senate committees.

Disobedience to the Congress' summons is punishable by a jail term of one month and one day to six months (arresto mayor), or a fine ranging from two hundred to one thousand pesos, or both a fine and imprisonment.

Gordon also filed eight counts of false testimony for Bolante's statements before the Senate blue ribbon panel during the Nov. 13, 25 and 28 hearings that were contradictory to the testimonies of the other witnesses.

In his testimonies under oath, Bolante maintained that the distribution of funds by his office was a regular program of the Department of Agriculture (DA), but was contradicted by the testimonies of DA regional directors (RDs).

DA directors Roger Chio and Leo CaƱeda both said that there was no such program in previous years or at any time after 2004.

Bolante said his role in the implementation of the Farm Input-Farm Implement (FIFI) project was only to "download" the funds, leaving the RDs to implement it. However, all the RDs said their authority to enter into a memorandum of agreement was only limited to one million pesos.

Dir. Chio presented a purchase order signed by Bolante, while Dir. Ricardo Oblena said Bolante called him up and instructed him to change the beneficiary of the program.

On Bolante's statement that he did not know who recommended him to be undersecretary of DA, Gordon, in his complaint, argued that it is contrary to human nature that Bolante merely accepted the appointment without knowing the identity of the persons behind his appointment.

Gordon also said that Bolante could not have merely been invited to be a Trustee of the Government Service Insurance System by Bernardino Abes, as he stated before the committee, because members of the GSIS Board of Trustees are appointed by the President of the Philippines.

Meanwhile, the Commission on Audit (COA) qualified Bolante's claim that the funds for the FIFI project were fully liquidated, saying that the funds were traced but the use and the manner of procurement of the fertilizers are still improper.

The former undersecretary also said that the term 'farm inputs' includes 'farm implements', but the COA stated that it does not classify implements as inputs.

Bolante also continuously maintained that he had only four bank accounts, but Senator Jinggoy Estrada stated that he had at least 23, and may even have had more than 70, based on a decision of the Court of Appeals.

Finally, the story of Bolante's "lost passport" was disproved by a letter from the Department of Foreign Affairs stating that Bolante's name does not appear in the department's lost and stolen passport database.

"With these eight statements of Mr. Bolante, which were all contradicted by other testimonies or official documents, it would not be hard to establish that he testified falsely before the Senate," Gordon said.

Although a bailable offense, false testimony is punishable by four months and one day (arresto mayor, maximum period) up to two years and four months (prision correccional, minimum period) imprisonment. Each false testimony is considered a separate and distinct offense.

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