Palace probes ‘illegal’ resolution authorizing sugar importation
MANILA, Philippines — An investigation is being mounted in the case of an “illegal resolution” authorizing the importation of additional 300,000 metric tons of sugar, which was uploaded on the website of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA), Malacañang said on Thursday.
Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles did not specify which Palace office is conducting the probe on the document approving the importation. The document has since been taken down from the SRA website.
“An investigation is ongoing to determine whether any acts that would cause the President to lose trust and confidence in his officials can be found or if there is malice or negligence involved,” Cruz-Angeles said in a press briefing.
“In such a case, if such findings are made, then the only determination left will be how many heads are going to roll,” she added.
Cruz-Angelez did not say how many individuals may be investigated, but Department of Agriculture Undersecretary for operations Leocadio Sebastian, may be one of them. Sebastian, concurrent chief-of-staff of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. in the department, was a signatory in the resolution.
“The resolution was issued in the President’s name; it was signed for the President by Undersecretary Sebastian. Such signing was not authorized by the President,” Cruz-Angeles said.
“His assignment as the alternate of the President is merely to be present in those meetings where the President cannot attend. It is not a delegation of authority to call any meetings or to sign any resolutions in the absence of the President’s awareness that such a resolution is to be issued,” she added.
No less than Marcos had rejected the proposal to import the sugar shipment. The Palace made the pronouncement just shortly after the “illegal resolution” was uploaded in the SRA website.
“He (Sebastian) was not authorized to sign such a resolution because the President did not authorize the importation,” Cruz-Angeles said.
“Ang status nila, lahat po ng pumirma ay under investigation. Hintayin po natin today if a determination can be made na ma-issuehan sila ng preventive suspension order habang tumutuloy ang imbestigasyon. Pero kung mabilis lang ang imbestigasyon, makakakita tayo ng mga replacements very soon,” she further said.
(All those who signed are under investigation. Let us wait for any determination to be made before they can be issued a preventive suspension order. But if the investigation is fast, we will see replacements very soon.)
As concurrent DA Secretary, the Palace spokesperson said Marcos sits as chairman of the Sugar Regulatory Board (SRB), and has a say-so as to when an importation may be allowed, in consultation with the board.
“This resolution is illegal. The chairman of the Sugar Regulatory Board is President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. As such chairman, he sets the date of any meetings or convening of the SRB and its agenda,” Cruz-Angeles said.
“No such meeting was authorized by the President, nor such a resolution likewise was not authorized,” she added.
Nonetheless, Cruz-Angeles said Marcos believes in the due process, thus, prompting the investigation.
Cruz-Angeles said the issue of agricultural importation is a “sensitive matter” for the Marcos administration.
“Sugar is one such importation which we take great care with. It is a balancing act. The importation has to be carefully studied to protect both the consumer against rising prices of basic commodities while ensuring at the same time that we do not destroy the local industry,” she said.
Cruz-Angeles said Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez has issued an order to create an importation plan that can be used by the government.
“As such, the only response to the query on whether or not an importation was to be made, the President did not assent and it was the executive secretary who issued the order to create an importation plan. It was therefore clear that there is no authorization for the importation of these 300,000 metric tons,” Cruz-Angeles said.
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