Palace clears DA, SRA execs in sugar import case | Inquirer News

Palace clears DA, SRA execs in sugar import case

BACOLOD CITY — “Nothing short of a miracle.”

This was how Aurelio Gerardo Valderrama Jr., former Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) board member, described the Office of the President’s dismissal of the charges filed against him and three others over the foiled importation of 300,000 metric tons (MT) of refined sugar in August 2022.

“I am so happy, especially for my wife. You should have seen her reaction yesterday,” he said in an interview on Thursday.


Valderrama said he initially did not want to take on the job of being an SRA member representing the sugar planters, but accepted it because he was recommended by three sugar producers’ federations.


In a statement he later sent to the Inquirer, Valderrama said the issue caused so much grief to him and his family.

He said he was very happy that the charges filed against him were finally junked.

Valderrama now serves as national president of the Confederation of Sugar Producers Association.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, in response to a text message from the Inquirer, opted not to issue any statement regarding the matter.

“We no longer want to fuel any more disunity within the sugar industry. It is now high time we work together to strengthen our industry or face the daunting threat of increasing imports due to inflation and high cost of food and fuel,” he said. The Senate had conducted an investigation into the issue last year.

Palace admonition

In a 10-page decision, the Office of the President dismissed the case against the former SRA board members who were linked to the foiled importation of 300,000 MT of refined sugar last year. However, it also admonished them to be more prudent in performing their duties.


Aside from Valderrama, also absolved were former Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian, former Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica of the SRA board and board member Roland Beltran.

All the respondents, who were charged with grave misconduct, grave dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, have since resigned from their posts.

Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin signed the decision by the authority of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

The Office of the President said that the respondents’ issuance of Sugar Order No. 4 authorizing the sugar importation was done in good faith, absent any showing that they were aware of their lack of authority. “The respondents thought they were authorized because of miscommunication,” it added.

The root cause of miscommunication was the memorandum from then Executive Secretary Victor Rodriguez dated July 15, 2022, which granted Sebastian authority to sign contracts, memorandums of agreement, administrative issuances, instruments, and administrative and financial documents necessary to carry out objectives, policies, functions, plans, programs and projects, for the efficient and effective operations of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

In the instant case, SO 4 was prepared under a directive by the President to come up with an importation plan, the draft of which was sent to Rodriguez. Having not objected, the respondents could have assumed its approval, the decision said.

“We have to respect whatever the decision is because it was already investigated and all the parties involved have presented their side,” DA deputy spokesperson Rex Estoperez said at the Laging Handa public briefing.

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He added that Sebastian had signified his intention to return to the department, adding that they were discussing what position he would assume.


Sebastian’s return to DA not ruled out after being absolved from sugar importation mess

‘The truth’ to hit Rodriguez; sugar import mess probe still going – Hontiveros


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