Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Gordon: It's over

THE Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is eyeing just one more hearing before wrapping up its investigation into the P728 million fertilizer fund scam and finalizing its report.

In a press briefing at the end of the seventh hearing since the scandal’s principal figure, former Agriculture finance undersecretary Jocelyn “Jocjoc” Bolante came home from the US last October 28, panel chairman Sen. Richard Gordon expressed satisfaction they had finally “tied” the pieces allegedly confirming that the scam took place and Bolante was its principal architect.

Gordon said he is just waiting for copies of the checks that were mostly deposited at the Land Bank of the Philippines, which he said, established the “paper trail” ending at the doorstep of the former Agriculture un-dersecretary and good friend of First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo.

“On that (copies of the bank checks), I might call for one more hearing and then I would convene the (committee) secretariat to discuss the preparation of the report,” Gordon said.

He said among the remedial measures they are eyeing are amending the Bank Secrecy Law and reforms in the functions and powers of the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

He said the bank secrecy law should be amended in order not to stump congressional hearings that seek to establish the use of the banking system in money laundering activities.

He said lawmakers were dismayed that despite assurances by AMLC executive director Vicente Aquino, Bolante managed to withdraw money from his bank accounts after the AMLC freeze order was lifted without the Senate being informed about it.

Gordon, however, reserved his more stinging criticisms for the Office of the Ombudsman under Merceditas Gutierrez.

He noted that since 2006 when the investigation into the fertilizer fund controversy started, the Ombudsman is yet to file a single criminal case against Bolante and the other scam participants.

“As early as March 7, 2006, the Ombudsman and the AMLC were already furnished by the Senate a copy of its report (on the first investigation under the 13th Congress). That was about 1,019 days from December 20, 2008, and still, no case was forthcoming from the Ombudsman,” Gordon said.

He added had the Ombudsman done its part, the assets and bank accounts of Bolante and the other participants could have been frozen by the court by now and the difficulty of tracing the money trail would have been resolved a long time ago. By: Paul M. Gutierrez - Journal online

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