Malacañang ‘open’ to Jocjoc extradition

By: Philippines Krediet.Fr  03/31/2008
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Malacañang ‘open’ to Jocjoc extradition By Angelo S. Samonte Reporter Malacañang said it supports the continuation of the investigation of the P728-million fertilizer scam and the extradition of the former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn “Jocjoc” Bolante, who remains detained in a US prison. “Of course, the President is open for the investigation of Jocjoc Bolante. We have nothing to hide,” Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Sergio Apostol said Sunday. “The bad thing with the opposition is that it always blames the President with Bolante’s case, although they know that he is languishing in jail. They [opposition members] are barking up the wrong tree. They should wait for Bolante’s deportation before they speak,” he said. The Office of the Ombudsman is not sitting on the case, Apostol said. “Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez is investigating it. It’s within her jurisdiction.” The opposition has been challenging the Ombudsman to initiate its own investigation and file graft charges against officials in the Agriculture department and others in local government involved in the P728-million fertilizer scam. The Senate, which conducted an investigation into the fertilizer scam, offered the Ombudsman documents and testimonial evidence gathered during its inquiry, saying that the evidence are available to government antigraft prosecutors for scrutiny and evaluation. The controversial agriculture fund was reportedly managed by Bolante, the alleged chief architect of the fertilizer fund program and a close associate of the President’s husband, Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo. The opposition claimed the Arroyo administration allegedly diverted the fertilizer funds to ensure the victory of President Arroyo in the May 2004 elections. Documents from the Commission on Audit showed that more than 100 House of Representatives members, 53 governors and 26 town mayors received between P3 million and P10 million each in fertilizer funds from the Agriculture department shortly before the May 2004 elections. The opposition has been pressing Gutierrez to file a case against Bolante so that an extradition proceeding could proceed. The absence of a case filed against him in a Philippine court will make his deportation impossible. Bolante has been in detention at a California jail since July 2006, when he arrived in Los Angeles from South Korea after his US tourist visa had been cancelled. A Wisconsin court dismissed Bolante’s petition for bail for “lack of subject matter jurisdiction.”

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