Ombudsman clears Arroyo in fertilizer fund scam

By Kathlyn dela Cruz,

Posted at May 08 2014 06:14 PM | Updated as of May 09 2014 02:21 AM

MANILA - The Office of the Ombudsman has dismissed the graft case against former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in connection with the P728-million fertilizer fund scam.

The eight-page resolution, signed by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales on May 2, said there was no "factual or legal basis" to show that Arroyo had participation in the alleged irregularities in the release of P728 million fertilizer funds in 2004 by virtue of the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA).

Arroyo was accused of diverting the funds to her political allies in the LAKAS-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD) Party, which she headed back then, to help bolster her presidential bid in the 2004 elections.

Among those who received AFMA funds intended for the purchase of farm inputs like fertilizer were Quezon City 4th District Representative Nanette Daza and Parañaque City Representative Eduardo Zialcita, whose districts are not farm zones.

According to the Ombudsman, there was no "documentary or testimonial evidence" that could prove that the former president participated in or knew of the alleged scheme perpetrated by then Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Luis Lorenzo and DA Undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante.

"All of the documents submitted by complainant were prepared and signed by other persons, and not by [Arroyo]. Not one of them may be traced back to her. Thus, no reasonable conclusion may be made that she, directly or indirectly, took part in the alleged irregularities that attended the entire process in the release of the fund," the Ombudsman resolution read.

It said Arroyo cannot also be held criminally liable for alleged failure to condemn the acts of her subordinates -- Lorenzo and Bolante -- under the doctrine of "command responsibility."

The allegation is "baseless," it said, since it was proven that Arroyo conducted a review on the policies and programs in the AFMA.

"Without proof that respondent actually authorized the acts complained of, she cannot be held liable for the illegal acts of her subordinates," the Ombudsman said.

'Justice has prevailed'

Arroyo's spokesperson, Atty. Raul Lambino, said the Ombudsman's decision only proves that Arroyo was a mere victim of "political persecution."

"Nakatutuwa na pagkatapos ng maraming maraming taong paghihintay dito sa kalalabasan nitong kasong ito ay sa wakas lumabas na po yung desisyon na dini-dismiss nga itong kasong laban sa dating pangulo. Napatunayan na walang legal and factual basis, at wala siyang kinalaman dito sa sinasabing fertilizer fund scam," Lambino told radio dzMM.

In a separate interview on ANC's News Now, he said the former president is both "happy and sad" with the Ombudsman's decision.

He pointed out that it took about 10 years before the case was finally resolved.

Moreover, he noted that the resolution, which they received on Wednesday, was dated May 8, 2013 but was only signed by Morales on May 2 this year.

Nonetheless, Lambino said the Arroyo family is happy that the truth has finally come out.

"At least the truth and justice has prevailed. It has come out already after so many years that this particular issue was used and abused to destroy her image. And for political purposes, this was used by many people against her and her previous administration," he said.

With this "vindication," the Arroyo camp is hopeful that the other cases filed against her will also be dismissed, he said.

Arroyo is currently under hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) in Quezon City for a plunder case in connection with the alleged misuse of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) funds.