BY DENIS GADIL
THE Senate Blue Ribbon committee can on its own re-open the P728-million fertilizer fund scam investigation to hear the testimony of former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn "Joc Joc" Bolante, Sen. Francis Escudero, chair of the committees on justice and ways and means, said yesterday.
The Blue Ribbon panel is chaired by Alan Peter Cayetano.
Senate President Manuel Villar has said he will first call a caucus to decide on which Senate committee should handle the investigation.
Escudero said no senator complained when Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago convened her committee on foreign relations on the "euro generals" without plenary approval. "Dito sa kaso ni Joc Joc parang masyadong maraming reklamo at kiyaw kiyaw," he said.
Escudero criticized his colleagues who came out strong against the "euro generals" during the probe of Santiago but suddenly became "overprotective" of Bolante.
Senators Edgardo Angara and Juan Miguel Zubiri have said the Ombudsman now had jurisdiction on the issue as the committee on agriculture and food then chaired by Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr., concluded its probe in 2006.
Angara, Magsaysay’s predecessor, has strongly maintained that the Senate in the 13th Congress had already done its job and even recommended the prosecution of Bolante.
Escudero said the senators should show more outrage since the P6.9 million involved in the euro generals mess is small compared to P728 million in fertilizer funds.
"Sana kung gaano kainit, kung gaano kagalit, kung gaano kabilis ang aksyon sa euro generals na pitong milyon lang, times 100 sana ang init, galit at bilis dahil times 100 din ang involved na pera," he said.
Escudero said he expects Senate doctors to get a more substantial medical report on Bolante’s condition after the All Saints weekend.
Bolante was brought to the St. Luke’s Medical Center on his arrival Tuesday night due to what he claimed were chest pains, preventing Senate marshals from enforcing the arrest warrant against him for his role in the fertilizer fund scandal.
On Thursday, his doctors said his condition is normal and stable.
Solidarity Philippines, a Church-based social justice group challenged senators to get custody of Bolante to thwart any plan by him and Malacañang to cover up the fertilizer fund scam.
"It is a challenge for the Senate, particularly to the Senate President, to get a hold of Bolante by Monday," said Fr. Joe Dizon, the group’s co-convenor.
"Even if it (Arroyo government) says that it does not care about Bolante, it has no more credibility. There is no doubt that it will try to stop Joc Joc from talking," Dizon said.
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said he supports the call of Sen. Angara for the Supreme Court to act on the petition filed by Bolante’s lawyer questioning the validity of the arrest warrant.
Bolante’s camp maintains the arrest warrant was issued in the 13th Congress, and thus has expired with the assumption of the 14th Congress. – With Gerard Naval and Jocelyn Montemayor