Press Release
February 4, 2006

Let DA officials testify on fertilizer fund scam, Senators urge Malacañang

Senate President Franklin Drilon and Sen. Ramon Magsaysay, chairman of the Senate Committee on Food and Agriculture, today warned Malacañang against preventing officials involved in the controversial P728-million fertilizer fund scam from testifying before a Senate inquiry, saying any attempt to cover up the fraud would be futile at this point.

In the light of the revelations of blatant and massive corruption in this program, we are calling on Malacañang to either revoke or suspend the implementation of Executive Order 464 so that these public officials can explain their participation in the fertilizer fund scam, Drilon and Magsaysay said in a joint statement.

The two senators noted that former Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary now Presidential Assistant for Job Generation Arthur Yap, former DA Assistant Secretary now Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) Vice President Ibarra Poliquit and incumbent DA Undersecretary Belinda Gonzales have invoked EO 464 as their reason for refusing to testify before the Senate inquiry.

These officials, Drilon and Magsaysay added, were directly involved in the administration of the fertilizer fund which the opposition claimed was diverted to ensure the victory of President Macapagal-Arroyo in the May 2004 polls.

The fertilizer fund was reportedly managed by former DA Undersecretary Jocelyn Joc-Joc Bolante, the alleged chief architect of the fertilizer fund program and a close associate of First Gentleman Mike Arroyo.

In the statement, the two senators also asked President Arroyo to give the Senate committee full and unlimited access to all DA and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) records on the fertilizer project.

In fact, Malacañang should direct DA and DBM officials to present before the Senate Committee all pertinent documents on the use of this funds. The Constitution calls for transparency and public access to these records, they said.

By allowing these officials refuge under EO 464, Malacañang can not escape the public perception that it is actively involved in a futile cover up attempt, the senators said. It will definitely reinforce the allegations that the fertilizer funds were indeed used for the election campaign of President Arroyo in May 2004.

I think it would be wise and prudent for Malacañang to revoke or suspend EO 464 in this case, the statement further said. These officials owe the millions of poor and impoverished Filipino farmers an explanation as to why the fertilizer funds were diverted allegedly for political purposes.

On Friday, Drilon challenged the Office of the Ombudsman to initiate its own investigation and file graft charges against Department of Agriculture (DA) and local government officials involved in the P728-million fertilizer scam.

He said documents and testimonial evidence gathered by an ongoing Senate congressional investigation can be made available to government anti-graft prosecutors for scrutiny and evaluation.

The Commission on Audit confirmed that the fertilizer used in the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani (GMA) program was overpriced by at least P127 million. COA records showed that more than 100 House of Representatives members, 53 governors and 26 town mayors received between P3 million and P10 million each in fertilizer funds from the DA shortly before the May 2004 elections.

Drilon earlier called on Malacañang to revoke EO 464 when the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) issued a pastoral letter saying that the search for truth on allegations questioning the legitimacy of the Arroyo administration must continue.

If Malacañang was sincere in its statement that it welcomed the CBCPs statement, then it must first revoke EO 464, Drilon said. If there is anything that serves as a stumbling block to the search for the truth on allegations of election fraud as well as charges of widespread corruption in government, it is the callous implementation of this executive order by Malacañang , he added.

Drilon added that the self-serving executive order was preventing Congress from exercising its constitutionally-mandated oversight powers to look into the abuses and excesses of the executive department.

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