Column: Before Bolante

Published on December 9, 2008

On March 16, 1950, Sen. Lorenzo Sumulong, chairman of a Senate special committee created to investigate the Philippine government’s dubious purchase of two pieces of property, questioned businessman Jean Arnault about the transaction. Arnault’s suspiciously evasive answers to one question in particular led to his imprisonment at the New Bilibid Prison, the national penitentiary, and presaged former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante’s slipperiness before that special committee’s successor 58 years later.

Excerpts from the landmark Supreme Court decision Arnault v Nazareno make for revealing reading:

The Chairman: Who was that certain person to whom you delivered these P440,000 which you cashed on October 29, 1949?

Mr. Arnault: I don’t remember the name; he was a representative of [nonresident American businessman Ernest] Burt.

The Chairman: That representative of Burt to whom you delivered the P440,000 was a Filipino?

Mr. Arnault: I don’t know.

The Chairman: You do not remember the name of that representative of Burt to whom you delivered this big amount of P440,000?

Mr. Arnault: I am not sure; I do not remember the name.

The Chairman: That certain person who represented Burt to whom you delivered the big amount on October 29, 1949, gave you a receipt for the amount?

Mr. Arnault: No.

The Chairman: Neither did you ask a receipt?

Mr. Arnault: I didn’t ask .

The Chairman: In what year did Burt give you that verbal instruction; when Burt was still here in the Philippines?

Mr. Arnault: Yes.

The Chairman: But at that time Burt already knew that he would receive the money?

Mr. Arnault: No.

The Chairman: In what year was that when Burt while he was here in the Philippines gave you the verbal instruction?

Mr. Arnault: In 1946.

The Chairman: And what has that certain person done for Burt to merit receiving these P440,000?

Mr. Arnault: I absolutely do not know.

The Chairman: You do not know?

Mr. Arnault: I do not know.

The Chairman: Burt did not tell you when he gave you the verbal instruction why that certain person should receive these P440,000?

Mr. Arnault: He did not tell me.

The Chairman: And Burt also authorized you to give this big amount to that certain person without receipt?

Mr. Arnault: He told me that a certain person would represent him and where could I meet him.

The Chairman: Why can you not tell us the name of that certain person?

Mr. Arnault: Because I am not sure of his name; I cannot remember the name.

The Chairman: When you gave that certain person that P440,000 on October 29, 1949, you knew already that person?

Mr. Arnault: Yes, I have seen him several times.

The Chairman: And the name of that certain person is a Filipino name?

Mr. Arnault: I would say Spanish name.

The Chairman: And how about his Christian name; is it also a Spanish name?

Mr. Arnault: I am not sure; I think the initial is J.

The Chairman: Did he have a middle name?

Mr. Arnault: I never knew it.

The Chairman: And how about his family name which according to your recollection is Spanish; can you remember the first letter with which that family name begins?

Mr. Arnault: S, D or F.

The Chairman: And what was the last letter of the family name?

Mr. Arnault: I do not know.

The Chairman: Have you seen that person again after you have delivered this P440,000?

Mr. Arnault: Yes.

The Chairman: Several times?

Mr. Arnault: Two or three times.

The Chairman: Here in Manila?

Mr. Arnault: Yes.

The Chairman: And in spite of the fact that you met that person two or three times, you never were able to find out what was his name?

* * *

A couple of years later, still in detention and under the custody of the Senate, Arnault offered an answer to the essential question. He said the man who received the P440,000 was a certain Jess D. Santos. The Senate was unimpressed, however, and kept him in jail. In 1955, or five years after the Senate ordered him detained, the high court ruled that he deserved to continue to be in jail, until purged of the charge of contempt.

If one were to hazard a guess about whether the current Supreme Court will uphold the Senate’s arrest order against Bolante, however, the realistic view would be to take one’s bearings from the Court’s position on the contempt case involving Romulo Neri. Bolante won’t do an Arnault.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Newsstand: Column

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s