The Office of the Ombudsman has dismissed for lack of proof a fourth graft complaint against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, this time in connection with the P728-million fertilizer fund scam.
Malacañang welcomed the decision, saying “we respect the findings of the Office of the Ombudsman, an independent constitutional body, which has the authority to decide on such cases filed before it,”
An eight-page resolution recommending the dismissal of the complaint said no documentary or testimonial evidence was submitted to prove that Arroyo had knowledge or participation in the disbursement of the fund.
“All in all, complainant’s allegations of respondent’s criminal liability for violation of Section 3(e) of RA [Republic Act] 3019 lack any factual or legal basis. This Office has no other recourse but to dismiss the case,” it read.
Plunder cases require commission of the offense and the Ombudsman ruled that the complainant failed to present proof of Arroyo’s knowledge of and participation in the scheme allegedly perpetrated by former Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo and Undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante.
Bolante signed the issuance of the special allotment release order, by authority of Lorenzo, to the regional field units for the fertilizer fund project. Plunder charges against them are pending at the Sandiganbayan.
The resolution was dated May 8 last year but was only approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales on Friday.
“All of the documents submitted by complainant were prepared and signed by other persons, and not by respondent. Not one of them may be traced back to her. Thus, no reasonable conclusion may be made that she, directly or indirectly, took part in the alleged irregularities that attended the entire process in the release of the fund,” it also read.
“In this case, without proof that respondent actually authorized the acts complained of, she cannot be held liable for the illegal acts of her subordinates,” the Ombudsman said.
The complaint was filed by the late Solicitor General Frank Chavez, who accused
Arroyo of using the fund for her presidential bid in 2004, giving it to political allies despite her being disqualified from receiving it.
The P728-million fertilizer fund was to be spent on farm inputs in various congressional districts and local governments identified by the Department of Agriculture.
Arroyo, who was then Lakas-CMD head, allegedly distributed the fund to 179 proponents, 121 of whom were members of her own political party and the other 58 were incumbent officials from other political parties.
According to GMA’s lawyers, former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez had already dismissed the complaint but the dismissal was overturned by acting Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro when she resigned.
Casimiro created a panel to probe Arroyo’s alleged participation in the scam when another plunder case was filed and no evidence was found that Arroyo participated in identifying or disqualifying Lakas party members as recipients of the fund.
Arroyo could not be held liable under command responsibility or neglect of duty, the Ombudsman said, because she tried to do something to rectify irregularities by ordering the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGC) to investigate.
“Complainant’s allegation that respondent failed to comply with her duty to review the policies and programs in the AFMA [Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act], is baseless. Annexes “1” to “21” of respondent’s counter-affidavit proved that such a review was complied with. In any case, such accusation is also irrelevant, complainant having failed to establish its connection to the irregularities committed in the disbursement of the fertilizer fund,” it said.
On April 28, the Ombudsman also cleared Arroyo and her son Diosdado of the accusation that they had amassed ill-gotten wealth from the Libmanan-Cabusao Dam and Skybridge 1 and 2 projects in Camarines Sur, of which he is currently a representative.
According to Arroyo’s lawyers, this adds to the cases filed against the now-Pampanga representative and dismissed for lack of basis.
The Ombudsman also cleared Arroyo in the P72-million plunder case in connection with the old Iloilo Airport’s sale and in the supposed misuse of the P530-million Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration funds.