Former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn “Jocjoc” Bolante on Thursday belied suspicions that President Arroyo was directly involved in the alleged misuse of the P728-million fertilizer fund scam.
“President Arroyo has never been involved and is not involved in this particular project of the Department of Agriculture,” Bolante said replying to Sen. Manuel Roxas II’s query if the Chief Executive was in any way involved in the alleged malversation of the multi-million peso fund scam.
Bolante said Mrs. Arroyo could not have been involved in the scam or in the multi-million fertilizer project because it only went as high as the Department of Budget and Management.
“The project that you are referring to is the P728-million farm inputs and farm implements were processed by DBM and did not require the approval of Mrs. Arroyo,” he said.
Before Roxas made the opening salvo on Bolante, the former undersecretary broke his almost two and a half years of silence in the fertilizer fund scam by apologizing to the Senate for his failure to attend its hearings in 2005.
“First and foremost, I would like to apologize for whatever inconvenience my non-appearance… I assure you that it was not out disrespect nor was it because I had something to hide,” he said.
Bolante explained that he failed to attend the hearings because the Senate declined to provide him consideration. He said there were times he was invited by the Senate a day before the actual hearing.
He added that the Senate’s hearings ran counter to his prior appointments abroad in 2005.
The former agriculture secretary also denied the accusations of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, then headed by Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr., that he masterminded the fertilizer fund scam.
Earlier, Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri announced that he was inhibiting himself from the hearings after his name was included in the list of the alleged recipients of the fertilizer fund.
“For a sense of delicadeza and fair play, I inhibit myself from the proceedings,” Zubiri said.
Zubiri, a congressman of Bukidnon in 2004, admitted that he was offered P5 million worth of fertilizer. However, he said he declined the offer and instead asked the Department of Agriculture to provide him funds for road and bridge construction.
“Being an agriculturist, a trained and educated agriculturist, I knew for a fact that fertilizer was not needed by the farmers of Bukidnon. The fertilizers [being offered] were more for ornamental application,” the senator said.