What did the Senate expect? A conversion similar to Paul of Tarsus? Did they expect Jocelyn "Joc Joc" Bolante to suddenly tell the truth, chastened by two years of confinement in a Kenosha County jail, followed by two weeks of soul-searching in a St. Luke’s hospital suite?
Joc Joc Bolante was at his "bolantic" best last Thursday, as he dead-panned innocence before the senators of the realm. He was just a disbursing officer, said he. There was a program…er, funding pala. It was a practice even in previous administrations to assist farmers with inputs. Except that GMA was suddenly extremely generous in 2004 – 728 million pesos, and even more. So generous that Joc Joc got his request for a DBM release of funds within 24 hours. The budget of 2004 was a re-enacted budget, made so by collusion between Congress and the executive, so GMA could treat it as one entire discretionary fund, except for personal services, otherwise called salaries and wages by laymen.
Even the bombastic Miriam was no match to the bolantic liar. He was simply unflappable. Tony Zulueta coached him well. The atmosphere at St. Luke’s was conducive to non-conversion. The Holy Spirit could not move Joc Joc from his bolantic obfuscations and prevarications. Force of habit. As Mar Roxas quipped, "Pulos bola." Maybe the aswangs of Capiz, and not the Holy Spirit, moved the guy.
Jun Magsaysay had already established the facts of the caper.
First, Joc Joc released funds for fertilizers during the harvest season, not the planting season.
Second, there was no public bidding. If the funds were downloaded during the harvest season, there was ample time to bid out a tender for fertilizers in time for the planting season, right? But no, the funds had to be spent as soon as they were downloaded. Fertilize the harvest, baka mag-miracle rice!
Third, the huge money was a first in DA practice. It was also the last. Which means, pang-eleksyon lang, hindi ba?
Fourth, there was no criterion utilized in apportioning the funds to various provinces, districts and cities. Hating kapatid. So much so that even urbanites Cynthia Villar and Teddy Boy Locsin and Alan Peter Cayetano, then a congressman, were listed as a proponent and recipient. Umiinom na ng fertilizer ang mga itik para mangitlog ng balut?
Fifth, it was supposedly to increase palay and corn production, under the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani (GMA) rice and corn program. But they bought foliar fertilizer, diluted with more water, used for orchids. He, he, he. If you don’t have rice, why not eat flowers? Bourbonic becomes bolantic.
Sixth, overpricing. Isang kutsaritang urea, tinunaw sa isang litrong tubig (distilled naman siguro), 1,500 pesos each! Kung may pera sa basura ang mga mayor, may pera sa tubig na kulay ihi si Bolante.
Seventh, ghost suppliers – Feshan, Akame, produced hastily by Bolante and his "runners".
And eighth, ghost recipients pa! Per the Commission on Audit, of the 13 non-government organizations listed as beneficiaries, only five had legitimate addresses.
But the senators came unprepared, or perhaps they thought he had been exorcised from the influence of the aswangs transported from Capiz to St. Luke’s upon the hill. They could just shake their heads in disbelief, with Miriam bellowing sighs that sounded like guttural noises at the brazenness of Bolante’s tales of denial. She should have just picked her pistol and shot the witness right between the eyes. She is a sure shot after all, ‘di bala? The people would even make her a heroine.
Through it all, in absolute calm, never raising his voice, never losing his cool, Jocelyn Bolante simply denied everything. GMA had nothing to do with it. 728 million, hindi alam ni GMA, Mar gushed? "Napaka-poderoso" mo naman! Siyempre, ma-swerti talaga si Joc Joc. He did not know anything about suppliers; he was just a disbursing officer. All the other senators just twitted him, but the guy remained denial king to the end…well, almost.
Even his appointment as undersecretary was just happenstance. The Presidential Management Staff called him, and voila, the insurance executive was transported into the realm of agriculture, one of the first quiet appointments of the newly-proclaimed president by act of usurpation. El esposo grande had nothing to do with it.
Everyone and his mother in the Department of Agriculture would soon know him as the most powerful undersecretary ever in its long history. All roads led to his office, not to Secretary Leonardo Montemayor, nor Secretary Cito Lorenzo, but Bolante told the Senate he was just a mere disbursing officer.
Pushed later to the wall when Panfilo Lacson got his turn in the evening, he tossed the ball to the undersecretaries for operation. And Alan Peter Cayetano identified Arthur Yap, then NFA administrator, as one of the undersecretaries. But Lacson produced a memorandum signed by Bolante, addressed to a regional director of the DA in the Visayas, where he authorized them to negotiate with NGO’s and PO’s in the distribution of the diluted fake fertilizers. Only at that point was the unflappable Bolante discom-bobulated. He quibbled something about LGU’s, not NGO’s, but his act was clearly upset. Because earlier he maintained stoic innocence about the how’s and the what’s of implementation. Now he was forced to own up to the memorandum. He was into operations, pala!
My sources at the DA told me that this "Farm Inputs/Farm Implements" was not a banner program, not even a regular program of the department. It was a "special" program devised by bolantic genius, disbursed by bolantic genius, and supervised with devious bolantism.
Cito Lorenzo could not touch Joc Joc. Neither the other undersecretaries, Usecs Sana, Martinez, even Yap who was designated by Lorenzo to help out for a few months could dare interfere with the omni-powerful Joc Joc, who conscripted Asecs Belinda Gonzales and Pliquit to his enterprise. See where they are now – both have been promoted to undersecretary. Courtesy of the PMS and "search" committee too?
Ma-swerti lang si JocJoc, because Lacson asked late. The senator came to the session hall at 9 sharp, but by then, other senators had already gotten their staff to place their nameplates ahead. And he had to leave for a university symposium in the afternoon, thus forfeiting his time slot until the second round of questions. By then it was almost seven in the evening. The fact that Joc Joc was still up and about, after almost nine hours of the hearing, cool and composed, merely showed he was just malingering at St. Luke’s, Lacson observed.
Round one clearly was Joc Joc’s, because the senators who grilled him did not have enough fire in their bellies, aside from not doing their homework. Or they just preened before the live cameras – nagpa-pogi, nagpa-beauty. Only Lacson did research, but his turn came late. Mar and Chiz were eloquent, but Joc Joc simply remained bolantic. Bolantic was how we described the shamelessness of his caper before; bolantic is how we describe his act before the Senate last Thursday.
Jocelyn "Joc Joc" Bolante the Rotarian is sui generis. Napakagaling mam-bola. Napakagaling mag-isip kung paano gumawa ng pera. Bagay na bagay sila ng kanyang mga amo. Congratulations – PMS and GMA’s "search" committee. You hit the jackpot. What a "great" guy!
Postscript: At one point in the hearing, someone tried to pry details about his health condition. After perorating about the "findings" of his cardiologist, Joc Joc quipped that "at least, they found that I have a heart".
Jinggoy Estrada laughed. He should have shot back – what about soul? What about conscience?
Somebody else was detained inside a cell in the US of A after Doña Gloria gave the go-signal for his extradition, because he knew too much, and could prove to be an embarrassment for the 2004 elections. Remember MJ?
He came back claiming to have been "touched" by the Holy Spirit. He has now slinked into oblivion.
Joc Joc Bolante went through another US jail. He came back, unchanged…rather, hardened. In fact, more bolantic than ever.