House panel cites in contempt another set of cold storage facility execs during probe
MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives committee on agriculture and food cited in contempt another set of officials from a company operating a cold storage facility during an inquiry into the alleged smuggling and hoarding of agricultural products.
During the hearing of the panel on Tuesday, Michael Ang and George Ong of Super Five Cold Storage — one of the cold storage facilities under scrutiny by the committee — were cited in contempt for conflicting statements.
Quezon 2nd District Rep. David Suarez who made the motion, noted that Marikina 2nd District Rep. Stella Quimbo inquired earlier from the two if they are involved in trading, to which they denied. However, Suarez pointed out that they also admitted being part of a company that does trading of agricultural products.
“It’s with a heavy heart that I have come to my decision […] unfortunately, our guests from Super Five Cold Storage remained to be evasive. So Mr. Chair, I move to cite in contempt Mr. Michael Ting Ang, and Mr. George Ong,” Suarez said.
“Let me stress — and it’s in the minutes — Congresswoman Stella asked, ‘are you involved in trading’, and they said categorically ‘no’. And when the name of a company was involved, was mentioned, which was involved in trading, inamin niya na bahagi ako ng kumpanyang ‘yon. So pagsisinungaling po ‘yon sa kumiteng ito,” he added.
(And when the name of a company involved was mentioned, which was involved in trading, they admitted that they were involved in the company. That’s virtually lying to the committee.)
All of the committee members present physically and on videoconferencing voted in favor of citing the two in contempt.
During the discussions, the lawyer of the Super Five officials asked the committee to reconsider the move to cite in contempt the two, noting that they have been present and that they would comply with the committee’s wishes.
However, Cavite 4th District Rep. Elpidio Barzaga said that attendance alone is not a basis why resource persons can be saved from contempt orders — especially as they testified under oath.
“Your appearance does not mean that you cannot be cited for contempt, as you will remember, before you were asked questions, you take an oath, and in that oath you were asked — even your clients — ‘do you swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth,’ and you swear ‘yes,’” Barzaga said.
“So much so, that if you will not be telling the truth, although you are present and you have submitted the documents, there will be a legal basis for citing a person in contempt, whom we consider not telling the truth,” he added.
As a penalty, both Ang and Ong would be detained at the House’ detention facility for 10 days.
This is not the first time in the course of the House panel’s investigation on smuggling and hoarding of agricultural products that cold storage facilities were cited in contempt.
READ: Agri trader tagged in alleged onion smuggling skips House inquiry
READ: Speaker Romualdez warns onion, garlic hoarders; orders House probe
Last March 7, three officials of Argo Trading were cited in contempt also after they refused to provide documents needed by the panel, as these were allegedly confidential. However, lawmakers eventually found out that the documents were not covered by a confidentiality clause.
Eventually, 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.
READ: Lawyer, two cold storage facility execs held in contempt during House probe
READ: House panel lifts contempt order vs cold storage facility execs
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