Sandiganbayan junks Joc-joc Bolante plunder case

MANILA, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan 2nd Division dismissed the plunder case against former Department of Agriculture (DA) undersecretary Jocelyn "Joc-joc" Bolante, who had been accused of being a key player in the P723-million fertilizer fund scam.

In a 16-page resolution, Associate Justices Samuel Martires, Michael Frederick Musngi, and Geraldine Faith Econg affirmed the initial findings two years ago that there was no evidence against Bolante and other defendants in the case.

Aside from Bolante, also accused were former DA secretary Luis Ramon "Cito" Lorenzo Jr, former DA assistant secretary Ibarra Poliquit, and private defendants Jaime Paule, Marilyn Araos, Joselito Flordeliza, Marites Aytona, and Leoncia Marco-Llanera.

The Office of the Ombudsman had filed the plunder case back in 2011, saying it had strong evidence that would "shock the world."

The Ombudsman was later allowed to amend the original information it filed before the court, in a bid to strengthen its case. One of the defendants, Jose Barredo Jr, was turned into a state witness.

Barredo claimed he was involved in the scam, but the Sandiganbayan said he failed to prove Bolante pocketed P50 million or higher.

"Contrary to the musings of the prosecution, we find nothing substantial therein that would change our view as to the lack of probable cause for plunder in this case... No material participation, other than the release of the funds, could be shown to be attributable to accused Bolante," stated the resolution.

"What was merely showed was that the ill-gotten wealth went to the local officials of [LGUs] or to certain persons in the regional offices of the DA."

The fertilizer fund scam involved funds under the DA's Ginintuang Masaganang Ani program, which were allegedly misused by legislators in collusion with private suppliers and foundations that were recipients of the funds.

The supposed beneficiaries – farmers – did not receive fertilizers and farm inputs.

It was believed the funds were instead used to finance the political allies of former president and now Pampanga 2nd District Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for the May 2004 polls. – Rappler.com