Former SRA chief faces 15 days in jail, P30,000 fine
BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines — The former chief of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) has been sentenced to 15 days in prison and fined P30,000 for issuing a memorandum allowing the importation of sugar despite a court order against it.
Judge Walter Zorilla of the Regional Trial Court Branch 55 in Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental, slapped the penalties on Hermenegildo Serafica after citing him for indirect contempt on Sept. 26.
Zorilla also issued an arrest warrant against the former SRA chief who remains free as of Tuesday afternoon.
The judge earlier issued a writ of preliminary injunction directing the SRA, its agents and representatives or persons acting on its behalf, to stop implementing the sugar importation embodied under Sugar Order No. 3, Series of 2021-2022.
But on May 4, Serafica issued SRA Memorandum Circular No. 11, Series of 2021-2022 allowing the importation of 200,000 metric tons of sugar in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, except in Western Visayas.
According to Zorilla, the former SRA official “willfully disregarded and manifestly disobeyed the writ of preliminary injunction” when he issued the memorandum.
The judge noted that Serafica’s justification that the preliminary injunction could be enforced only within the 6th Judicial Region where his court belongs was “utterly misplaced.” “Clearly, there is absolutely nothing in the preliminary injunction that enjoined the implementation of Sugar Order No. 3 only in the 6th Judicial Region,” Zorilla said.
The case against Serafica stemmed from a complaint filed early this year by Enrique Tayo, chair of Negros Occidental Federation of Farmers’ Association.
Tayo, who was later joined by intervenor David Alba, former general manager of the Asociacion de Agricultores de La Carlota y Pontevedra (AALCPI) and the concurrent acting SRA administrator, filed a civil case seeking a preliminary injunction against the SRA then represented by Serafica.
AALCPI is an independent sugar group that is also the largest on Negros Island with more than 13,000 members.
Serafica, through the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel, explained that he did not disobey, resist, or otherwise violate the court’s order, adding that he acted in good faith when SRA issued Memorandum Circular No. 11.
Sugar groups earlier called out the SRA and the Department of Agriculture for proceeding with the importation of refined sugar mandated by Sugar Order No. 3 since there was a pending case against such action.
Sugar Order No. 3 allowed the importation of 200,000 MT of refined sugar for industrial users, mainly major food and beverage manufacturers, between March 1 and May 1. Sugar producers, however, called it “ill-timed” as it would happen at the peak of the milling season.
Zorilla said that Serafica was the only signatory of Memorandum Circular No. 11. “There is no way the court can uphold [his] claim of good faith to vindicate his blatant disrespect of this court’s jurisdiction,” he added. The only signatory
“Serafica, in his persistence to implement Sugar Order No. 3, resorted to an extrajudicial remedy by issuing Memorandum Circular No. 11. Serafica committed an act constituting indirect contempt that is criminal in nature,” the judge said.
On Aug. 15, Serafica, along with other board officials, tendered their resignation following another sugar importation mess, this time involving the botched importation of 300,000 MT of sugar without the approval of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
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