By Delon Porcalla
Quezon City Rep. Nanette Daza, one of the lawmakers named by the Ombudsman in the scam, explained that as a matter of procedure, it is the Department of Agriculture – not the congressmen – that identifies what projects should be undertaken in a particular district.
“No such thing as fertilizer, no such thing as overprice,” Daza told The STAR.
“In fairness to the other congressmen, we have never identified projects. These are identified by them (DA), not by us.”
Daza, now on her third and last term, could not recall though if the DA even provided her with towable shredders as reported.
“That I can’t recall. But if indeed there is I would have endorsed this to Payatas where this is needed. I still have to check the records,” she said.
Daza also cited her highly urbanized district as another reason why she cannot possibly avail herself of a fertilizer subsidy.
“My district and the NCR (National Capital Region) doesn’t need fertilizers,” she said.
Former congressmen Oscar Gozos of Batangas and Federico Sandoval II of Malabon-Navotas also made the same defense.
Both denied having received fertilizers for farm use, but admitted receiving shredders.
“These are not our funds. These are DA funds. We’re not even involved in the bidding. All of these came from the executive department even if Congress has the power of the purse,” said Gozos, now the mayor of Lipa City in Batangas.
“It is the DA that disbursed these funds, not us,” he added. “I’m not a recipient (in the fertilizer list), although I suspect that my name was included. But I didn’t get any fertilizer, in whatever form.”
Sandoval, for his part, claimed he never received any fertilizer for his former district.
“I don’t know (about the fertilizers and overprice). It is the DA that conducts the bidding. What I got was a shredder. Alangan namang tanggihan ko? E para naman sa district namin iyun (How can I refuse that? Anyway, my district was identified as a recipient of that shredder).”
As leader of the 241-strong House of Representatives, Speaker Prospero Nograles expressed displeasure over the report, which was leaked to the media despite the confidential nature of cases handled by investigators.
But Nograles could not say whether former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn “Jocjoc” Bolante used the involved congressmen in the scam.
Bolante, who is now hiding and undergoing deportation proceedings in the US, allegedly masterminded the scheme to help bankroll President Arroyo’s campaign in the May 2004 presidential elections.
“Let us not telegraph in haste our opinions until there is clear and final findings of a prima facie case,” Nograles said.
“As a matter of fact, this premature disclosure is against the confidentiality nature of Ombudsman cases where only final resolutions are made public. The reason being that reputations of officials may be unduly harmed by premature disclosures,” he said in a text message to The STAR.
Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon, who was also listed among the recipients, said congressmen “are not part of the process for the funds to be released. They may be correct that their districts were just recipients.”
An irate Makati City Rep. Teodoro “Teddyboy” Locsin, who in 2004 hurled invectives at Bolante, lashed back at Newsbreak for getting credit for the fertilizer expose.
“Newsbreak writes like they exposed it. I did and Newsbreak wouldn’t carry (the) story. Siguro nabili sila nuong una (Maybe then they were paid to kill the story),” Locsin said.
“Pu…ina, cleared daw ako ng mga p…iyan sa Ombudsman when ako ang nag-expose while ang lecheng opposition walang imik kasi sali sila. (… how can they say I was cleared by the Ombudsman when I was the one who exposed it, while those… opposition kept silent because they were part of it).” [...]
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