Senate OKs panel recommendations on sugar import fiasco | Inquirer News

Senate OKs panel recommendations on sugar import fiasco

/ 07:30 PM November 07, 2022
The Senate approves the recommendations of the blue ribbon committee on the sugar importation mess.

Facade of the Senate building in Pasay City. (Philippine Daily Inquirer file photo)

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate approved on Monday the recommendations of the blue ribbon committee on the sugar importation mess.

During the plenary session, panel chairperson Senator Francis Tolentino made amendments to Committee Report No. 3.

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Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva subsequently moved to approve the panel report’s recommendations.

“At this juncture, I move to approve the recommendations in Committee Report No. 3 regarding privilege speech of Senate President [Juan Miguel Zubiri] entitled Fiasco Behind Sugar Order No. 4, delivered on August 15, 2022,” he said.

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As no one objected, the recommendations hurdled the Congress’ upper chamber.

In September, the blue ribbon committee recommended that charges be filed against four officials of the Department of Agriculture and the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) for their alleged involvement in the fiasco.

The four officials are suspended Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian, former SRA Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica, and SRA board members Roland Beltran and Aurelio Gerardo Valderrama Jr.

READ: ‘My conscience is clear’: Ex-SRA chief Serafica denies alleged kickback on sugar importation mess

The charges that were recommended to be lodged against the officials are:

  • one count for a violation of Section 3A of Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act
  • one count for a violation of Section 3E of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act
  • one count for a violation of the provisions of Republic Act No. 10845 or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016
  • one count of usurpation of official functions defined and penalized under Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code

The Senate blue ribbon committee also proposed the inclusion of the four officials in the immigration lookout bulletin.

Meanwhile, the Senate minority bloc, composed of Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and Senator Risa Hontiveros, has filed a separate report.

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Under the minority bloc’s findings on the sugar importation fiasco, former Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez was “not entirely blameless” in the issue as he has an alleged shortcoming.

The opposition senators also said charges against the four officials are “lacking factual and legal basis.”

The Senate blue ribbon committee launched a probe into the sugar importation mess after Sugar Order No. 4, which allowed the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar, was published on the SRA website.

READ: Serafica: President eyed 600,000 MT sugar imports; Rodriguez denies it

Malacañang quickly denied such an order, saying President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who concurrently sits as agriculture chief, rejected the proposed importation.

KGA/abc
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TAGS: Agriculture, blue ribbon committee, Senate, sugar, sugar importation
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