Panganiban, SRA execs to face Senate ‘Sugar Fiasco 2.0’ probe
MANILA, Philippines — Department of Agriculture (DA) Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban and Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) officials may face the Senate Blue Ribbon committee next week for another investigation into the alleged irregularities in sugar importation procedures.
In an interview with reporters on Tuesday, Senator Francis Tolentino, who chairs the panel, said the date for the public hearing on the bitter controversy dubbed as “Sugar Fiasco 2.0” has not yet been determined but it will likely happen after the regular session resumes on May 8.
Asked if Panganiban and SRA officials will be required to attend the probe, Tolentino replied: “Correct.”
But will Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin likewise be summoned for the investigation?
The senator said this would depend on the position papers submitted to the committee.
The Senate investigation on the alleged illegal entry of sugar shipments in Philippine ports days ahead of the issuance of Sugar Order No. 6 was initially scheduled to start on April 25.
It was, however, called off a day before “in view of the foreign official trips and, therefore, the non-availability of several important resource persons.”
Tolentino explained the hearing was reset because Panganiban was out of the country last week and there were movements in the SRA leadership as well.
Panganiban was briefly designated SRA officer-in-charge until Pablo Luis Azcona was named the agency’s acting administrator and chief executive officer on April 28.
Panganiban previously admitted to acting “with haste” when he asked three “capable and accredited” companies – All Asian Countertrade, Edison Lee Marketing Corp., and S&D Sucden Philippines Inc. – to import 440,000 metric tons of sugar.
The DA official said he mistook a memorandum from the Office of the Executive Secretary as the go-signal for the importation.
Senator Risa Hontiveros – who filed the resolution calling for the Senate probe and deemed this sugar import mess a form of “government-sponsored smuggling” – had criticized Panganiban for allegedly “bypassing the legal mandate of the SRA.”
The inquiry would be the second investigation of the Senate on alleged irregularities in the import procedures of the SRA under the administration of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
Marcos chairs the state-run sugar regulator in his concurrent capacity as DA chief.