GMA faces plunder rap for P2.3-B agri program

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 28 2011 11:52 AM | Updated as of Jun 29 2011 03:52 AM

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - Former Solicitor General Francisco Chavez filed a second complaint for plunder against former president now Pampanga 2nd District Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo with the Department of Justice(DOJ), this time, for the disbursement of some P2.3-billion in public funds for the purchase of farm inputs, including fertilizers

The 31-page complaint includes the more familiar P728-million fertilizer fund scam, plus, a larger P1.7-billion disbursement, also for the Arroyo administration's Ginintuang Masagana Ani Program.

"While ostensibly marketed as funding for the benefit of farmers, the foregoing amounts were actually intended for distribution to several public officials -- including mayors, governors, and members of the House of Representatives -- who were listed as 'proponents' of projects under the 'Ginintuang Masaganang Ani Program' and who were supposed to use the funds so distributed for the 'purchase of farm inputs' required by their respective projects," the complaint read.

Other respondents in the case include former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn "Jocjoc" Bolante; former agriculture secretary Luis Ramon Lorenzo Jr.; former agriculture assistant secretary Ibarra Poliquit; Mario Relampagos, undersecretary of the Department of Budget and Management(DBM); Nora Oliveros, DBM Bureau-E director; Rose Florendo, Leni Aquino, Jaime Paule and Jane Fabian, alleged "runners" of Bolante.

Respondents were also charged with malversation and/or illegal use of public funds; graft and corruption; and violations of the Omnibus Election Code, Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials; and qualified theft.

Chavez annexed lists containing the names of public officials pertaining to the allocation of the funds.

"Far from serving their lawful purpose, however, the funds were meant to induce these public officials to support respondent GMA's candidacy for, and/or ensure her electoral victory as, President in said public officials' areas of responsibility," the complaint read.

Chavez slammed the timing of the release of the funds -- the P728-million on February 3, 2004 or 7 days before the start of the official campaign period for the May 2004 national elections where she ran as President, and the P1.6-billion on February 11, 2004 or just a day before the start of the campaign period -- saying this "attests to the real purpose behind the release of the funds."

"Worse, the funds were not -- in fact, were never intended to be -- utilized for the purpose for which these were allocated in the first place. Rather, the funds were intended to enable the public officials aforementioned to utilize the same not only for their respective political interests, but also, more important, to facilitate the candidacy and/or ensure the victory of respondent GMA," the complaint read.

"Not a single drop of fertilizer was bought. Now is the time for her to realize that she cannot pontificate on good governance. She should have the temerity to do that because look at her trail, it's a trail of unmitigated corruption, pillage and plunder," Chavez said in an interview with reporters.

Chavez alleged that the allocation of a portion of the subject funds to "highly urbanized areas in the National Capital Region where there are no farms to speak of and, consequently, where 'farm inputs' are useless," bolsters the fact that funds "were never intended for any agricultural purpose."

"That the allocation of the funds for ostensibly agricultural purposes was, in reality, an infusion into the political kitty of respondent GMA is reinforced by the fact that the purported 'proponents' of the projects were officials identified and allied with respondent GMA or are supportive of her bid for President during the 2004 elections," the complaint read.

The fact that Arroyo approved the release of the SARO links her to the offense alleged, Chavez said.

Chavez withdrew a similar case he filed with the Ombudsman in May 2004 against respondents so he could file the case with the DOJ.

"These cases had been deliberately set aside only to gather dust in the shelves of the Office of the Ombudsman," Chavez said.

Appended to the complaint were Senate Committee Reports in 2006 and 2009 on the investigations into the disbursements of these funds.

"The Committees recommend that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo must be held accountable [for] the mismanagement of the fertilizer fund and take it upon herself to institute measures to correct the flaws in her administration... It bears knowing that a matter of testimonies adduced during the hearings were that the fund was indeed used to assure her victory in the 2004 elections," a portion of Committee Report No. 54 of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food and Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations dated March 1, 2006 read.

While Senate Committee Report No. 254 by the Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations dated February 26, 2009 read: "This is a tale of how a group of people -- like a wolf pack, was able to rob the government blind. This is a story, so shocking to the conscience, that would result in gross injustice (of) institutions, like the Ombudsman, continue to turn a blind eye to clear acts of plunder and money laundering by powerful and influential government officials and their pack of wolves. This wolf pack did not only rob the government. Worse, it plundered a vulnerable sector in this country, the farmers. They did this during the election year of 2004.

Respondents have yet to release copies of the new plunder complaint.

Chavez's first plunder complaint against Arroyo was in connection with the alleged misuse of millions in Overseas Workers Welfare Administration(OWWA) funds in 2004.

Arroyo faces another plunder complaint before the DOJ in connection with the sale of the old Iloilo airport.