Arroyo faces probe over fertilizer fund scam

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Monday, July 4, 2011


MANILA (Updated 12:08 p.m.) -- Acting Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro ordered a fact-finding investigation on the participation of former President and Pampanga Representative Gloria Arroyo in the P728-million fertilizer fund scam.

Casimiro reversed an earlier recommendation under the command of former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez to junk charges against Arroyo.

"It is an elementary principle that a secretary is an alter ego of the President… There is thus a need to conduct investigation as to the complicity and liability of the former President with respect to the allocation, release, and expenditure of the fertilizer funds," he said in a press statement.

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Former Agriculture secretary Luis Lorenzo Jr., his former undersecretary Jocelyn "Joc-Joc" Bolante, and assistant secretary Ibarra Poliquit were ordered charged for plunder last week.

The three have been accused of perpetrating the scam, where money meant for fertilizers was allegedly spent to bolster then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's reelection bid in 2004. The Senate investigated the scam in 2005, and reopened its probe in 2009.

The acting ombudsman also denied appeals filed by former Quezon City representative Nanette Castelo-Daza, former Marinduque governor Carmencita Reyes, and former Cantanduanes governor Leandro Verceles Jr. They also face graft charges at the Sandiganbayan. All three allegedly received fertilizer funds.

Casimiro has also ordered the dismissal from government service of Poliquit and other Department of Agriculture officials ordered charged in April.

The original resolution to charge Lorenzo, Bolante, and Poliquit with plunder "in conspiracy with each other" was signed by Gutierrez.

Her alleged inaction on the fertilizer fund scam was one of the articles of impeachment she was to face at an impeachment trial in May.

She resigned in late April and designated Casimiro as acting ombudsman until President Benigno Aquino III appoints her replacement. (Jonathan de Santos/Sunnex)

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