House panel lifts contempt order vs cold storage facility execs
MANILA, Philippines — The contempt order issued by a House of Representatives panel against three officials of a cold storage facility have been lifted, Quezon 1st District Rep. Wilfrido Mark Enverga said.
Enverga, chairperson of the House Committee on agriculture and food, said in a statement on Tuesday that the contempt order against Argo Trading president and general manager Efren Zoleta Jr., legal counsel Jan Ryan Cruz, and operation manager John Patrick Sevilla were lifted after the three were able to give satisfactory explanations.
It could be remembered that the three were cited in contempt by the panel, after claiming that documents containing Argo Trading’s inventory were covered by a confidentiality clause — only for lawmakers to find out that the documents did not have any confidential stamp on it.
“The Committee on Agriculture and Food met at one o’clock this afternoon to consider the appeal of Atty Ryan Jan Cruz to lift the contempt orders issued by the Committee during its March 7, 2023 inquiry on the possible hoarding and other acts of price manipulation of agricultural commodities […],” Enverga said.
“Signifying their willingness to cooperate, help in the ongoing inquiry and having complied with the documentary requirements requested, the Committee unanimously agreed to lift the contempt orders and begin the process of their release,” he added.
Sagip party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta, who sought for the documents from Argo Trading and who moved to cite in contempt the three officials, said that he was satisfied with the explanation given.
Hence, Marcoleta said he has no objection to the lifting of the contempt order.
“The data that they had initially filed for compliance is only for 2022. And I understand that they are trying to get as far back as 2020, so that will be three years in a row, that we shall be able to analyze and study the data that will eventually help us hunt these economic predators Mr. Chair,” Marcoleta said during the meeting of the committee.
Earlier, Enverga also confirmed that Zoleta and Cruz turned themselves in to the House of Representatives on Monday. Both were cited in contempt during the March 7 hearing, but they were not present while the panel conducted its investigation on the possible hoarding of agricultural products like onions.
Only Sevilla was detained at the House detention facility last March 7.
The House panel is conducting an investigation amid rising prices of agricultural products, particularly onions — which at one point skyrocketed to around P600 per kilogram.
House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez last Tuesday warned that they would not allow anyone to make a mockery of the hearing, which has a goal of bringing down prices of agricultural goods.