‘Epitome of impunity’: Hontiveros blasts Panganiban’s choice as SRA head
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Risa Hontiveros on Thursday slammed the appointment of Agriculture Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban as officer-in-charge (OIC) of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA).
The lawmaker even called it “the epitome of impunity” because Panganiban was appointed to head the SRA despite accusations of “government-sponsored” sugar smuggling with him at the center of an impending Senate investigation on the alleged illegal importation of sugar earlier this year.
“Panganiban’s appointment is the epitome of impunity. What sort of message do we hope to send here to our fellow government employees, to our farmers, to our consumers by rewarding corruption instead of punishing it?” Hontiveros said in a statement.
She added that if this had been a different government, Panganiban would have already been suspended and subjected to criminal and administrative investigations.
Before Panganiban’s appointment, SRA was led by David Thaddeus Alba, who resigned due to health reasons. Although Alba’s resignation also happened after he was implicated in the sugar import controversy.
Hontiveros said Panganiban’s treatment significantly differs from Alba’s.
“Instead of demotions or criminal or administrative charges, Panganiban is being provided by Malacañang with a plum new post at the Sugar Regulatory Administration. This is in stark contrast to their treatment of another DA official who resigned his post after being tagged in the controversial Sugar Order No. 4,” she said.
As the senator who first presented the sugar import anomalies, Hontiveros also expressed fear that Domingo may use his new power to derail the Senate investigation.
“I fear that the SRA, under Panganiban, will continue to deny requests by industries to procure their own sugar supplies and justify the high prices of sugar being forced on consumers and businesses alike. I am also wary about Panganiban using his new position to cover his own tracks and issue gag orders, as he has done in the past, to derail investigations into his activities and the so-called ‘Sugar Fiasco 2.0’,” the senator said.