'Conviction of Joc-Joc rests on trial of Merci'

Posted at 04/18/11 11:44 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Already feeling the pressure, a member of the prosecution team against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez said the latter’s trial will also determine the fate of former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante.

In an interview with radio dzMM, lawyer and Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said “[if Gutierrez] will be convicted, that’s the only time that Joc-Joc will lose his ‘motion to dismiss.’”

The Office of the Ombudsman finally ordered last week the filing of plunder charges against Bolante and former Agriculture Secretary Luis “Cito” Lorenzo in connection with the P728 million fertilizer fund scam.

A criminal information or charge sheet has yet to be filed before the Sandiganbayan, but already, Colmenares sees the direction the case will be going.

“Reading the mind of the counsel of Joc-Joc, he may question why the case was filed only after 6 years [after the fund scam],” Colmenares said.

He said the counsel may use the Supreme Court ruling in Tatad vs. Sandiganbayan where the high court ruled against the Tanodbayan for violating the constitutional rights of the accused to due process and to the speedy disposition of cases.

He noted that Assistant Ombudsman Jose de Jesus was quoted as early as 2008 that the criminal are charges have been readied for filing.

“It is very important to convict Merci at the Senate, to prove that she coddled Joc-Joc,” he said, adding that the Ombudsman belatedly issued a resolution to make her trial easier to litigate.

Colmenares also said the criminal information or charge sheet that will be filed before the Sandigabayan in connection with Bolante’s case should be looked into.

He said it should be checked how it was worded, such as the naming of Bolante as the mastermind of the whole scam.

“This means that the next Ombudsman will have a hard time impleading (or citing) former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to the case. If Bolante was named there as the mastermind, it means that he did everything for his benefit [only],” he stressed.