Alcala faces fourth plunder raps over rice import ‘midnight’ deal

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Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala faces a fourth plunder charge before the Office of the Ombudsman, allegedly for his involvement in a purported overpriced rice importation deal from Vietnam.

Metro Manila Vendor’s Association, in their complaint-affidavit represented by its president Flora Santos, accused Alcala and resigned National Food Authority (NFA) chief Orlan Calayag of amassing over a billion pesos in the deal.

“The deal clearly robs the government of a huge sum of money, which could have been used to support other worthy government projects and services…” the complaint read.

According to the complaint, Alcala and Calayag facilitated the importation of 800,000 metric tons from Vietnam Southern Food Corporation (VINAFOOD) in April this year.

Since the deal was struck a month before former senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan was appointed the Presidential Adviser for Food Security and Agriculture Modernization, the import project was purportedly a “midnight deal,” the complainants alleged.

“Apparently, realizing that their days were numbered, they made the most of their last remaining days in office and arranged a deal that would pay them handsomely in illegal kickbacks…” the complaint read.

The complainants alleged that the freightage rate of the deal was overpriced by $30 per metric tons (MT) – the NFA rate is $54 per MT as opposed to the prevailing market price of $24 per MT.

This means the respondents purportedly amassed $24 million or P1.080 billion. (The complainants used P45 per dollar as conversion rate. But the rate as of June 12 is P43.659, which means the alleged ill-gotten wealth is P1.048 billion).

The complainants also said the deal is unjustified because it was struck on April this year or during the harvest season when rice supply is at its peak.

The deal also contradicted the government’s promise to make the country self-sufficient in rice, the complainants said. Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda was quoted in a report as saying the Philippines would no longer import rice in 2014.

Alcala is facing three other plunder raps. The first one was filed in October 2013 by Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas against Alcala and President Aquino over the alleged misuse of Priority Development Assistance Funds under the scheme of Janet Lim-Napoles.

In December 2013, Alcala was also accused over the importation last May 2013 of 205,700 metric tons of rice from Vietnam allegedly overpriced by P457.2 million.

Meanwhile, in January 2014, Alcala and National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor) President Honesto Baniqued face plunder raps for allegedly amassing P1.07 billion that was supposedly part of the P11.4 billion unaccounted Nabcor funds based on a report from the Commission on Audit.

Alcala was also accused of being involved in the pork barrel scam. He was tagged on the list of scam beneficiaries furnished by Janet  Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind is the scam.

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