Sandiganbayan: Still no charges vs Lorenzo, Bolante

COMPLAINANTS and endorsers of the impeachment complaint against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez started  bring out proof of the Ombudsman’s gross inaction and negligence of duty, in a news conference at the House of Representatives Monday.

“As of last Friday, not a single case was filed by the Ombudsman against former agriculture secretary Luis “Cito” Lorenzo and undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-joc” Bolante on the plunder of P728 million fertilizer fund,” says Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) secretary general Danilo Ramos, one of the complainants.

Ramos showed the media a certification from the Sandiganbayan’s Judicial Records Division dated 25 February 2011 stating that “as of this date and per available records on file, No Criminal/Civil Case had been filed against…  Jocelyn Bolante and Luis ‘Cito’ Lorenzo.”

“For nearly seven years now, our case continues to gather dust at the Ombudsman,” says Ramos.

Last year, upon Lorenzo’s return to the country, the Ombudsman bragged that its fact-finding team recommended that Lorenzo and Bolante be indicted for graft and malversation along with 22 others. The fact-finding team’s recommendations, however, are still subject to the Ombudsman’s own preliminary investigation, which thus allows the respondents to file their counter-affidavits. The preliminary investigation team shall decide if there is probable cause to file charges against Lorenzo et al. with the Sandiganbayan.

“Despite farmers’ clamor for justice and the Senate’s repeated findings of criminal culpability and recommendations to file charges, the Ombudsman let the fertilizer fund scam case walk through a seemingly malicious legal process that gave legal leeway to plunderers.  This shows that Gutierrez did not only slept on our case but has used her office to deceive farmers and exonerate the main culprits,” says Ramos.

For his part, Anakpawis party list Representative Rafael Mariano said that “the P728 million fertilizer fund scam is a strong case that the Ombudsman deliberately ignored.  In fact, this case was always included and suppressed in every impeachment complaint against former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo since 2005.”

“It is highly condemnable that peasant-leaders languish in jail due to fabricated criminal charges while plunderers of farmers’ funds remain scot-free and even enjoy immunity courtesy of Gutierrez’s gross inaction and inexcusable negligence of her sworn duty,” says Mariano who also chairs the KMP.

“Worse, Gutierrez and her handlers used the Ombudsman’s office for cover-up. Her impeachment is the first step in removing the biggest stumbling block in the peasantry’s quest for justice in the fertilizer fund scam,” Mariano said.

Immediately after the 2004 elections, the KMP filed a plunder case before the Ombudsman against former President Arroyo, Lorenzo Bolante, and other officials involved in the fertilizer fund scam. The Senate committee on agriculture in the 13th Congress and the Senate Blue Ribbon committee during the 14th Congress also recommended the filing of plunder charges against Lorenzo and Bolante.

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