Press Release
June 26, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today urged the Office of the Ombudsman to go ahead with the prosecution of the culprits behind the fertilizer fund scam and not to go easy on former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante, the alleged mastermind of the anomaly.

Pimentel issued the call in the wake of reliable reports that Bolante has returned to the country after months of hiding in the United States, apparently taking advantage of the current recess of Congress to evade an arrest order issued against him by the Senate.

He said the Ombudsmans handling of the fertilizer scam, which involved more than P1.2 billion and not only P728 million in taxpayers money, will suffer from credibility problem if big fish like Bolante will be spared from criminal prosecution.

The Ombudsman must take the next step to prosecute the suspects, suspend them (as the case may be), and cause their conviction. Otherwise, the announced drive of the President would amount to nothing, the senator from Mindanao said.

Pimentel noted that the Ombudsmans investigation of the fund scandal is in progress although it is moving quite slowly. A fact-finding team of the anti-graft body has reportedly already submitted its initial findings on the fertilizer scam in at least two regions where instances of overpricing and ghost deliveries of fertilizer were discovered.

The minority leader warned that the public will only cast aspersions on President Macapagal-Arroyos much-heralded anti-corruption campaign if there are so-called untouchables enjoying Palace protection and if selective prosecution of suspects is practiced by the administration.

The prosecution and trial of the suspects will not need any of the P1 billion that the President announced she was setting aside for the drive against official corruption, Pimentel said.

All that is needed to be done is to set the example. Prosecute the offenders, get them convicted no matter who they are and no matter who their patrons are.

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