Press Release
November 9, 2008

Pimentel dismayed by Ombudsman's ruling to dismiss
Esperat's charges against Bolante

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today expressed dismay over the reported decision of the Office of the Ombudsman dismissing the graft charges filed against former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante and 10 other personalities by the late community journalist Marlene Esperat in connection with the multimillion peso fertilizer fund scam.

Pimentel said the Ombudsman's decision is difficult to understand because there was ample evidence of misuse of the fertilizer fund in the form of overpricing, ghost deliveries, purchase of wrong kinds fertilizer and diversion of funds to the 2004 election campaign of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo He said these anomalies were proven and supported by documentary evidence in the Senate's investigation on the fund scandal.

The evidence includes findings of the Commission on Audit and written and oral testimonies of farmers who were supposed to receive the fertilizer but failed to do so.

He said he does not think that the dismissal of the charges will be credible and acceptable to the people especially because Esperat, also a former employee of the Department of Agriculture, was slain inside her residence in Tacurong City in March, 2005 by mercenary assassins to cover up the fertilizer fraud.

Even the fact that Esperat is no longer around to render her testimony should not be a basis for throwing out the charges, the veteran parliamentarian said.

"In criminal law, a public offense such as the misuse of the fertilizer fund can be pursued even if the one who initiated and file the case has already died. The case can be prosecuted and elevated to the anti-graft court if it is supported by documents and other forms of evidence," Pimentel said.

He said that while he has yet to look at the findings of the Ombudsman, the charges against the suspected perpetrators of the fertilizer scam should not just be disregarded.

Pimentel said the dismissal of the graft charges against suspected culprits, some three years after the Ombudsman sat on the case should all the more prod the Senate to reopen the inquiry on the fertilizer fund scam in order to obtain the testimony of Mr. Bolante, who has been tagged as the alleged mastermind of the fund diversion.

He expressed the hope that majority of the senators will overrule the stand of some of their colleagues opposing the resumption of the probe and the transfer of the case from the committee on agriculture, chaired by Sen. Edgardo Angara to the blue ribbon committee, chaired by Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano.

On the alleged involvement of several congressmen and local government officials in the anomaly, Pimentel clarified that the congressmen whose names appeared in the list of recipients of the fertilizer fund in varying amounts need not personally appear before the Senate.

"We are not saying that they should be compelled to appear at the Senate hearing. What we mean is if their names were mentioned as among the recipients, they should feel obliged to make an explanation. It cannot be that they would just keep quiet as if nothing has happened. I think that is not a right attitude," he said.

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