PEOPLE who know him say Joc-joc Bolante looked tired and defeated. He left the Philippines haughty and arrogant, bragging about his endless Rotary meetings here and abroad, and his closeness to the First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, a fellow Rotarian. Then he returned late last night at the NAIA, his hair now gray and weighing considerably less because of his prison diet. One of his ex-friends monitoring the unfolding events on TV called it karma.
But the old dog still had a few tricks up his sleeve. He was videotaped inside the plane, on his way out, looking very fit, and wearing a slightly incensed expression on his face (probably because of the cameraman). Next we see him at the corridor leading from the tube, seated in a wheelchair, his left hand casually placed on his left breast, as if expecting a chest pain. The media was in a frenzy...those who managed to get inside the landing outside the tube elbowed each other to get a better shot of the former agriculture undersecretary pinpointed as the architect of the P725-million fertilizer fund scam, which was thought to have helped raise funds for the election of the presidentita.
After being wheeled into a waiting ambulance which drove into the Villamor Airbase then out into EDSA, turning into Aurora Blvd., and finally stopping at the St. Luke's Hospital in Quezon City, he is next seen lying on a stretcher, sans oxygen mask and tank, his hand still clutching his chest, being rolled into the one of the elevators. Not once did I believe he was in pain, despite his apparent history of hypertension.
First I wondered, like many of my media colleagues, why Joc-joc was being brought to a Quezon hospital considering that he lived in the South, specifically at No. 20 Ma. Christina St. Ayala Alabang. I asked someone who was familiar w/ his history if she had any ideas, and she told me that the accused fertilizer scammer knew a lot of doctors at St. Luke's as his father had been confined there. I had my doubts and told her that Joc-joc would probably be seen by the family physicians of the presidentita's family. They would try to get to him, send a message to shut up, and at the same time, assure him of their "protection" by providing him with the best health care their money could buy. (I hear that Joc-joc has used up a lot of his funds for his legal defense in the U.S. that he has been trying to sell his other house in Alabang – he has two, thankyouverymuch – as well as his cars which included a bimmer and a late model Mercedes Benz.)
As it turns out, Joc-Joc was visited by FG Mike's cardiologist, as per the latest news from GMA TV. Since they couldn't get him at the airport, they had to try to reach him through the hospital. Hay, super obvious naman ang mga plano nyo presidentita! Well, so much for the Malacañang statement that Bolante's arrival is considered a "non-event."
Those who know Joc-joc feel for his family, most of all. They say his greed did them in and he never once thought about how his actions would affect his family. A few years ago, I met his wife after attending Mass at St. James Church in Ayala Alabang (this was when he had already fled for the U.S. supposedly accompanied by a good friend), and she struck me as a simple, kind and down-to-earth person. She had no airs like her husband has been known for. People close to the Bolante family say she is probably the last person who would know what her husband had been up to. And for her and the kids to be dragged down by this controversy, well, kawawa naman sila.
(Btw, one businessman I recently interviewed told me that the Joc-joc just loved name-dropping. Mayabang talaga. But to his credit, my source added, if Joc-joc knew you were an Ilonggo like him, he would always be friendly and go out of his way to make you feel welcome. Hmmm...misunderstood lang kaya sya? Ngek.)
Anyhoo, check out these photos from Manolo Quezon's blazing coverage of Joc-joc's arrival.