Senators express mixed reaction to Palace dismissal of sugar importation case
MANILA, Philippines — The office of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has been “objective” in absolving the four officials linked to the sugar importation fiasco, a senator said on Thursday while another lawmaker said that their clearance “does not affect” the panel report of the Blue Ribbon Committee.
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said they agree with the Office of the President’s (OP) decision.
“We are in agreement. Good that the OP doesn’t mind being on the same side as the senate minority. Good too that the OP is being ‘really objective’ in this case. I am glad for the 4 affected personalities. This [development] will at least give them and their families a chance to repair their image and reputation,” he told reporters in a message.
The OP dismissed the case filed against former Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian, Sugar Regulatory Administration Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica, and board members Roland Beltran and Aurelio Gerardo Valderrama Jr.
The Blue Ribbon Committee, which deliberated on the sugar importation mess, recommended charging the four officials for their alleged involvement in the fiasco.
The Senate Minority — composed of Pimentel and Senator Risa Hontiveros — then released their report on the investigation, saying that the four officials acted in “good faith” and that recommendations to charge them “are lacking factual and legal basis.”
The minority bloc added that then Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez is not entirely blameless on the issue.
Senator Francis Tolentino, chair of the Blue Ribbon Committee, noted that the clearance of the four officials “does not affect” their findings.
“The clearance given by the OP Usec for Legal Affairs does not affect the 97-page Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Report which was adopted unanimously by the Upper Chamber, in aid of legislation, and following several full-blown public hearings conducted,” he said in a separate message to reporters.
Tolentino said that an “internal motu proprio administrative investigation report” conducted by a separate branch of the government is different from their committee report under the rules of a co-equal branch of the government.
Senator JV Ejercito is hoping that erring individuals be jailed, especially smugglers who affect local farmers.
“Ako naman [ang] concern ko, sana naman may makasuhan talaga. Hindi lang naman ‘tong government officials, but I’m more concerned with smugglers,” he said in a Senate interview.
(My concern is that someone will be charged. Not only these government officials, but I’m more concerned with smugglers.)
The Blue Ribbon Committee’s probe of the sugar importation fiasco stemmed from Sugar Order No. 4, authorizing the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar, published on the SRA website.
Malacañang denied such an order, asserting that Marcos, also the concurrent agriculture chief, rejected the proposed importation.