Persons cited for contempt by House panel probing agri hoarding surrender
MANILA, Philippines — Two individuals cited for contempt by the House of Representatives Committee on agriculture, which has been probing the issue of agricultural smuggling and hoarding, have surrendered, Quezon 1st District Rep. Wilfrido Mark Enverga said.
Enverga, the chairperson of the said committee, confirmed in a statement on Tuesday that Argo Trading president and general manager Efren Zoleta Jr. and legal counsel Jan Ryan Cruz turned themselves in at the House of Representatives around Monday noon.
Both voluntarily presented themselves to Sergeant-at-Arms Napoleon Taas in response to the contempt order issued last March 7.
“Two individuals who were cited in contempt by the House Committee on Agriculture voluntarily turned themselves in at the House of Representatives past noon Monday, and will be held in detention for 10 days,” Enverga said.
“ARGO Trading president and general manager Efren Zoleta Jr. and legal counsel Jan Ryan Cruz voluntarily presented themselves to Sergeant-at-Arms Napoleon Taas around 1:30 p.m. Monday in response to the contempt order, which was decided during the last committee hearing on reported price manipulation of onion,” he added.
Zoleta and Cruz will join Argo Trading operation manager John Patrick Sevilla, who was also held for safekeeping at the House of Representatives detention facility since March 7.
During the hearing last March 7, the three Argo Trading officials were held in contempt after they claimed that the documents containing the facility’s inventory — copies of which were requested by Sagip Party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta during his interpolation of Sevilla — were covered by a confidentiality clause.
But when Sevilla eventually shared the documents after an hour, lawmakers observed no confidential stamp on the paper. Sevilla said their legal counsel told them the documents could not be made public.
After that, Marcoleta moved to cite the three in contempt, with 35 of 49 members present during the hearing backing the move.
Enverga, on the other hand, reiterated the warning issued by House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, who said that the contempt order has his support.
Romualdez last Tuesday warned that they would not allow anyone to make a mockery of the hearing, which seeks to bring down prices of agricultural goods.
“I take this opportunity to reiterate the warning of our Speaker: we will not hesitate to use the full powers of the House of Representatives to ferret out who was behind the price manipulation of onion and other agricultural products. If need be, we will effect the arrest of those who refuse to cooperate with our investigation,” Enverga said.
“Ipakukulong din po namin ang mga magtatangkang magsinungaling sa aming mga hearing. Malinaw po ang instruction sa amin ni Speaker Romualdez. Kailangang maipababa ang presyo ng sibuyas sa lalong madaling panahon. Kailangang makilala kung sino ang bumubuo ng kartel na nagmamanipula ng presyo ng bilihin. Kailangang buwagin ang mga kartel na ito na nagpapahirap sa bayan,” he added.
(We will have those who would lie in our hearing arrested. The instruction of Speaker Romualdez is clear: we need to bring down the prices of onions quickly. We need to know who is part of this cartel manipulating the prices of goods. We need to destroy this cartel that makes lives for Filipinos hard.)