Senate will push raps against people in sugar mess
Charges will be brought against figures involved in approving controversial Sugar Order No. 4 once the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee releases the findings of its investigation on Thursday, September 8, the senator said yesterday. Francis Tolentino.
It came as Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez attended the Senate panel hearing on Tuesday morning after the Blue Ribbon Committee voted to assign him to shed light on the sugar import fiasco .
Rodriguez also refuted the claim by resigning Sugar Regulatory Administration officials that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. mentioned at a meeting last month that the country would need to import 600,000 metric tons of sugar. , i.e. double the quantity offered under SO 4.
At a press conference, Tolentino, who chairs the Blue Ribbon panel, said the committee’s 10-page report would recommend charges be filed against certain people for publishing the sugar order that Malacañang called a illegal.
“Certainly, charges will be filed. Just wait two more days,” Tolentino said.
He said the appearance of Rodriguez, who was grilled by senators over the aborted sugar import, clarified conflicting statements by some resource people “and pressing questions that arose from his testimony.”
After Rodriguez’s cross-examination, Tolentino ended the hearings, which reached three sessions.
When asked if former SRA Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica, Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian and former Sugar Council members Aurelio Gerardo Valderrama Jr. and Roland Beltran would be charged with signing the ‘OS4 controversial, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said “violations” had been committed.
“I will wait for the results of the (blue ribbon) report, but they violated rules and procedures,” Zubiri said.
Serafica told the committee on Tuesday that the president mentioned during a supposed hybrid meeting of the sugar council last August 4 that 600,000 metric tonnes of sugar may have to be imported into the country – a statement supported by Valderrama and refuted by the executive Secretary.
The former SRA chief told senators he had told Mr Marcos the proposed order ‘might be too much’ as the sugar milling season was about to open at that time- the.
“I said, ‘Mr. Speaker, this may be too much because from August 1, First Farmers (Holding Corporation) has already accepted delivery of cane from farmers and anytime this week they will start milling,” he said. he declares.
“Yeah, that was discussed in our Zoom meeting with the president and he mentioned the 600,000 but the former Serafica admin said that might be too much because the grind season is about to end. ‘open,” Valderrama added.
Rodriguez denied this, saying there was no truth that Marcos threw for such a volume of sugar.
“Wala hong binabanggit na amount in terms of quantity if kagalang-galang na Pangulo Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. paddling in metric tons na kailangang i-angkat. Kaya po tayo naipit doon in import plan pa lamang dahil hindi nga po kami kumbinsi in 300,000 metric tons,” he said.
[The honorable President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. had not mentioned an amount in terms of quantity on the metric tons (of sugar) that needed to be imported. That’s why we stalled on the import plan stage because we were not convinced of the need for 300,000 metric tons.]
The Palace had said the Sugar Board had met and issued a resolution without the approval of the president, who is also the secretary of agriculture and chairman of the board.
Sebastian, as Mr. Marcos’ chief of staff at the Department of Agriculture, represented the chairman on the sugar board and eventually signed SO4.
But he, Serafica and Beltran left their posts after the Palace declared the importation illegal. Sebastian’s resignation is still under consideration at the Palace.
“As far as what the penalties are and what the exact terminologies will be…I’ll leave it to the good gentleman of the Blue Ribbon Committee to come up with the findings,” Zubiri added.
“But as far as I’m concerned, there were procedural breaches, including hastily signing OS number 4,” the Senate president said.
Zubiri also backed Rodriguez, saying he didn’t believe Mr. Marcos would request the import of such a large amount for the merchandise.
“The president has already refused 300,000 metric tons, and 600,000 more? I don’t believe the chair said that. Impossible. The president won’t come up with a number from the top of his mind,” Zubiri told Serafica, warning that he was “very close to being cited for contempt.”
In response, the former SRA administrator insisted that was what he had heard.
“’Yung 600,000 po, sir, hindi po ‘yan galing sa’kin. “Yung binanggit ni Presidente na 600,000, sabi ko po, Mr President, this may be too much,” he said.
In an executive session, 11 senators voted to issue a subpoena to the executive secretary, while three senators opposed and three others abstained.
Deputy Minority Leader Senator Risa Hontiveros had repeatedly insisted on issuing a subpoena to Tolentino, who had previously presented the Senate panel with his letter, saying “he will no longer be able to attend the President’s instructions Ferdinand Marcos Jr”.
But after learning that a subpoena had been issued against the executive secretary, President Marcos ordered Rodriguez to attend Tuesday’s hearing.
Rodriguez said he had “no intention of disrespecting honorable members of the Senate and the senatorial institution.”
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III agreed with Zubiri, noting that the BRC could only produce one final report.
Meanwhile, Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa has attacked Department of Commerce and Industry (DTI) and DA officials for pointing an accusing finger at each in controlling the rising price of sugar. .
Director Marcus Valdez of the DTI Consumer Protection and Advocacy Group said sugar is outside their purview because it is not considered a basic necessity.
Dela Rosa countered and insisted otherwise, saying people need sugar.
“Regardless of agriculture or industry, always on price manipulation, that should be your turf,” Dela Rosa stressed.
He also said the anti-panic and anti-hoarding buying laws only apply to face masks and PPE during the pandemic period, not sugar.