House panel’s latest contempt order vs cold storage facility execs lifted
MANILA, Philippines — The contempt order against officials of a cold storage facility, issued by a House of Representatives panel doing a probe on smuggling and hoarding of onions, has been lifted after necessary documents have been secured, according to Quezon 1st District Rep. Mark Enverga.
Enverga, chair of the House Committee on agriculture and food, said in a statement sent to reporters on Tuesday that they have lifted the contempt order against Michael King Ang and George Ong, incorporator and operations manager of Super Five Cold Storage.
“The committee on Agriculture and food, having received the required documents and assured willingness to cooperate in the succeeding hearings, unanimously acted on the lifting of the Contempt order of Mr. Michael King Ang and Mr. George Ong,” Enverga said.
Ang and Ong were cited in contempt during the March 21 hearing after Quezon 2nd District Rep. David Suarez made the motion based on the two resource persons’ answers to Marikina 2nd District Rep. Stella Quimbo.
Suarez noted that both denied having links to a trading company after being asked by Quimbo, only to change their answers after a specific company was mentioned.
The House panel is investigating the alleged smuggling and hoarding of agricultural products like onions and the possible collusion between cold storage facility operators and trading companies — creating an artificial shortage that drove onion prices up to around P600 to P700 per kilogram in December 2022.
“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 (they admitted that they were involved in the company). So pagsisinungaling po ‘yon sa kumiteng ito (That’s virtually lying to the committee),” Suarez said during the hearing.
All of the committee members present physically and on videoconferencing had voted in favor of citing the two in contempt.
The lawyer of the Super Five officials then asked the committee to reconsider the move since they complied willingly with the panel’s invitation. However, he was rebuffed by Cavite 4th District Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, who said that attendance alone is not a basis for why resource persons can be saved from contempt orders — especially as they testified under oath.
Both were meted the penalty of detention within House facilities for 10 days.
This was not the first time during the House panel’s investigation that cold storage facility officials were cited in contempt.
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 was lifted after the three were able to give satisfactory explanations.