Lord, bring justice (once more); for the culprits (almost as usual) are again our leaders.

Ombudsman Probe Details Cover-up Scheme In Fertilizer Fund
By Aries Rufo

An Ombudsman fact-finding probe dissected in detail how the P728-million fund meant for fertilizer and farm implements in 2004 was plundered by House members, agriculture and local officials and private individuals.

Documents obtained by abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak show a hasty manner in which the fund was siphoned off, leaving a trail of clues on the anomaly.

The P728-million fund is just part of the more that P2.8 billion that was supposedly released to the Department of Agriculture before the May 10, 2004 national elections.

Described by the Senate committees on agriculture and Blue Ribbon as “the rape of the nation,” the fertilizer fund scam has been largely identified with former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante. He was tagged as the main architect of the scam, the one who called the shots in distributing the P728-million largesse meant to boost the election success of the administration’s political allies.

The Senate inquiry pinned down agriculture officials led by Bolante for criminal culpability and recommended further investigation and possible filing of charges against local officials. It found a web of officials within the DA which plundered the fertilizer fund.

Further investigation by the Ombdusman has shown that many players are as liable as Bolante.

The first part of this report explained the participation and culpability of House members in the fertilizer fund. (Please see ‘Ombudsman report: some House members liable for fertilizer scam ). In that report, House members were shown to have a “direct hand” and knowledge in the misuse of the fund.

Local officials, too

Another report obtained by abs-cbnNEws.com/Newsbreak illustrates the schemes that local officials engaged in to cover up the misuse of the fertilizer fund. Forty-nine governors and 26 mayors supposedly benefited from the fund.

An Ombudsman source said that as early November 2006, Task Force Abono, a panel of Ombudsman investigators, had already submitted some preliminary reports to Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. For some reason however, she is yet to act on the reports.

We sent text messages to Assistant Ombudsman Mark Jalandoni but he did not reply.

Former Solicitor-General Frank Chavez, one of the complainants on the fertilizer scam before the Ombudsman, told abs-cbnNews.com/Newsbreak that the Supreme Court may soon come out with its ruling on the petition for mandamus that he filed against Gutierrez for her inaction on the scam. He said Gutierrez had been sitting on the case for four years now.

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