Accused of Plunder, Jocjoc Bolante, Returns from US a Deportee

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Former Philippine Agriculture Undersecretary Jocjoc Bolante returns after getting released from a US prison and deported back to the Philippines. Bolante stands accused of plunder together with the Philippine president and first gentleman. In the heat of a Senate investigation in 2005, Bolante suddenly disappeared and became inaccessible to the investigators. A few months later he was arrested in the US because of expired travel visa. He has been detained at a Michigan prison until his deportation today. Even while in prison, Bolante continued to claim that he left the Philippines not to escape investigation to but to comply with previous commitments.

According to former Solicitor-General Frank Chavez one of the complainants who filed he case at the Ombudsman, documents show that as the then undersecretary for finance of the Department of Agriculture, Bolante was the architect of embezzlement of more than P3 Billion (around $64M), including P728M fertilizer fund, that were intended for farmers’ benefits. Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez has sat on the case for three years now.

Several reports suggest that the fraud-tainted money was used as campaign fund of Gloria-Macapagal Arroyo in the 2004 presidential election.

Technically, Bolante is now under the custody of the Senate Sgt.-at-arms who served a warrant of arrest when Bolante arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. On the side, protesters yelled at him. The protesters included Jun Lozada, the star witnesss in the senate investigation of the scandalous ZTE broadband deal that also implicated the first gentleman.

Bolante was brought to the St. Luke’s Medical Center when he complained of chest pain.

Fears of a new senate investigation of the fertilizer fund scam getting watered down persists. Gloria Arroyo’s allies in the senate are not so keen about it. Senate agriculture committee chairman, Sen. Edgardo Angara said that resumption of the senate investigation is no longer needed because a case has already been filed with the Ombudsman. Blue Ribbon Committee chairman, Sen. Allan Peter Cayetano is out of the country. The senate will not resume session until Nov 10. And Bolante’s initial announcement doesn’t sound like he intends to tell the full truth.

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