I heard bits and pieces of the Senate hearing of the fertilizer fund scam yesterday over the radio, and I *almost* felt sorry for former Department of Agriculture assistant secretary Montes and undersecretary Joc Joc Bolante.
A Senate hearing is worse than appearing before a court. It is even worse than appearing before the Supreme Court. At least in the Supreme Court, the questions are limited to the issues of the case. Not so in a Senate hearing. A senator (or all 23 of them) can ask a person under oath about practically anything. As shown in the hearing yesterday, a witness' canned responses (e.g. that is based on my personal knowledge; I do not know anything about it; etc) are no match for the senators' burning questions.
But as for Bolante, the senators could not quite pin him down. He was as slippery as a snake, wriggling his way out of questions when he obviously knew the answers. In one sequence, Senator Aquilino Pimentel (I think) asked Joc Joc the names of the people who availed of the fertilizer fund. Joc Joc said he didn't know. Senator Pimentel then mentioned some names for Joc Joc to identify: "Do you know congressman X of Ilocos? Do you know congressman Y of Cebu? Do you know congressman Jose de Venecia of Pangasinan?
Joc Joc seemed to have developed amnesia as he answered that he did not know the people being mentioned, not even congressman Jose de Venecia of Pangasinan (In fact, the had developed such a severe case of amnesia that he forgot Rotary's - his favorite social club's - four-way test, when he was previously asked of the same).
An exasperated Pimentel then blurted out, "Have you been living in Mars?" or something to that effect.
I almost pitied Bolante until I had to remind myself that he was most certainly hiding something, had evaded Senate questioning for two years and had been preparing for this moment since then. The fleeting feeling of pity was then dismissed just as easily as Joc Joc's empty answers.
Photo: david drexler, Flickr, Creative Commons