Controversial former Department of Agriculture (DA) Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante, escorted by U.S. marshals like a common criminal, is due to arrive on 11:00 p.m. Tuesday, October 28, 2008 on a commercial Northwest Airlines flight. The press will be staking out the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, hoping for a glimpse and maybe a quote or two. Also present would be crusading anti-corruption lawyer Harry Roque. They might be disappointed. Joc-Joc could be whisked off the plane and turned over to Philippine police and internal security authorities via any number of discreet exits, and the Arroyo administration will officially have in its grubby hands the possibly most damaging witness to large-scale corruption in the present administration. Which is exactly where they want him to be.
Unless the Senate sergeant-at-arms is able to beat Arroyo to it. But I doubt if the Senate is up to the task, as it has shown itself to be comically inept in similar situations in the past.
Bolante is the alleged Malacanang lackey behind the misappropriation of P728 million in fertilizer funds meant for farmers but which were diverted to Gloria Arroyo’s 2004 election kitty. To avoid investigation by the Senate Committees on Agriculture and Food, and Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations (Blue Ribbon) and possible criminal charges, Bolante fled to the United States. His request for asylum has been denied by US authorities and he has been cooling his heels in various U.S. immigration detention centers for the past two and a half years, putting up every legal roadblock to keep from being deported. Finally, on August 27, 2008, the US Court of Appeals for the 7th Federal Judicial Circuit turned down Bolante’s petition for review of his asylum claim. The court ruled that Bolante “cannot meet his burden of proof ” of entitlement to political asylum.Which set the stage for his ignominious return.
Bolante is a close buddy of First Dude Mike Arroyo, a member of the so-called “Rotary-Club mafia”, a great disservice to the civic organization. So much so that he supposedly operated without the knowledge of his boss, then DA Secretary Cito Lorenzo, in diverting funds to the Arroyo campaign. This is according to Cito Lorenzo’s friends. But this begs the question of why Mr. Lorenzo chose to go into self-exile in the U.S. instead of helping sort the mess out. Apparently, Cito has found religion in the U.S. and is loathe to return to our fair shores, where his billion-peso businesses are. As reported by the Manila Times:
Call it his personal act of penance if you like, but former Agriculture Secretary Cito Lorenzo–whose stint in the Arroyo government was marred by an alleged scam involving almost a billion pesos of fertilizer funds at his department that were supposedly misappropriated–is an ardent Stateside campaigner for Gawad Kalinga, the socioÂreligious organization that has valiantly pioneered low cost housing for the impoverished by tapping into volunteerism and corporate social responsibility.
Soon after the scandal broke some four years ago–and with the stench the fertilizer scam created refusing to go away because of the dogged pursuit of the truth by the Senate–Lorenzo has been in self-imposed exile in the United States.His nemesis at the Senate, former Sen. Jun MagÂsaysay (was in charge of agricultural affairs), is, however, unrelenting in his efforts to get Lorenzo back to the Philippines to provide what the senator claims are the key bits of the puzzle.
But so far Wharton-educated Lorenzo–who was an immensely wealthy businessman long before he joined government–has managed to stay put on the west coast of the USA.
People who have come into contact him in the USA in recent days say that Lorenzo is a changed man since, in his words, he became “born again” to the GK cause.
Now, with the same fervent zeal of an earnest Mormon missionary, Lorenzo apparently crisscrosses the States at his own expense spreading the GK gospel.
But the born-again factor is not in any way easing Lorenzo’s troubles back home. Apparently Magsaysay still bombards him with questions on the lines of what he knew and when did he know about the alleged fertilizer scam–with Lorenzo religiously responding through the safe alternative of his fax machine!
So while he is domiciled in the USA, Lorenzo’s luxuriously fitted multi-million peso mansion in the exclusive enclave of Forbes Park (complete with the gleaming Bentley in the garage that he paid almost P30 million for just prior to heading Stateside and hardly got to use) sits empty, with just a handful of maids in residence to watch over it.
This, in effect, makes it the most desirable maid’s quarters in the Philippines!
Lorenzo, whose family owns Lapanday Foods, among other major enterprises (including a favorite hangout of mine, Pancake House) is the one person, apart from Joc-Joc, whose testimony would be critical in pinning down the culprits of the fertilizer-fund scam. Why haven’t there been any earnest efforts to bring him home like what was done with Bolante ? I guess money speaks the same language wherever you are.
In the meantime, how does the Palace deal with a ticking time bomb like Joc-Joc ? Handle very carefully until such time one has the opportunity to get rid of it safely. And permanently.
The Senate orders Bolante arrested.