Palace open to Joc-joc, Cito as state witnesses

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 18 2011 04:16 PM | Updated as of Apr 19 2011 03:01 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang is open to the idea that former Agriculture Secretary Luis “Cito” Lorenzo and Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante can be witnesses for the state in connection with the P728 million fertilizer fund scam.

In a press conference, Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said “it will depend clearly on the information that they will proffer to us. Let’s see what they will say. In the first place, we still do not know what they really know.”

For the accused in a case to become state witness, he or she should be considered the least guilty. Bolante has been tagged the architect of the fund scam, but the critics of the former administration also want former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo linked to the case.

The Office of the Ombudsman finally ordered last week the filing of plunder charges against Bolante and Lorenzo. The information or charge sheet is expected to be filed before the Sandiganbayan today.

Despite this, Malacañang said this will not anymore bolster the case of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, who will face trial at the Senate in May for, among others, allegedly delaying several relevant cases.

"Whatever actions that she has taken are belated actions. And I think the Senate is fully aware, also the people are fully aware, of the belated actions taken by the Ombudsman on this matter,” Lacierda said.

In fact, it is even further pinning down Gutierrez to one of 6 cases cited by the prosecution team on why she should be booted out of office, he said.

“This [also] further emphasizes why we need to fix the prosecution aspect under the Ombudsman…We want to make sure that all cases filed are strong,” Lacierda added.

"We believe that if we have an Ombudsman that we can trust, who [has] the integrity to prosecute the cases, [then] our thrust crusade against corruption will really flourish,” he added.

Despite this, the Palace said Gutierrez is not being subjected to a "trial by speeches" of President Benigno Aquino III. The president has several times lambasted Gutierrez.

“The surveys already show the real reputation of the Ombudsman. This is not a trial by speeches. It’s just a statement of concern from the President on his anti-corruption efforts,” he added. - from a report by Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News