Solons want raps slapped against onion cartel lynchpins, hoarders
MANILA, Philippines — Quezon 1st District Rep. Wilfrido Mark Enverga personally wants to recommend charges against individuals responsible for the proliferation of cartels and the hoarding of onions that led to its high prices but promised not to preempt his committee’s report on the matter.
Enverga said this in a press briefing with Marikina 2nd District Rep. Stella Quimbo on Thursday, when asked if the House committee on agriculture and food would push for complaints against hoarders exposed during the panel’s hearings.
Enverga heads the panel probing the onion issue, while Quimbo was the one who filed the resolution calling for an investigation on the matter.
“Of course ayaw ko pangunahan naman ‘yong committee report, syempre with respect to our members. But I personally — Cong Stella, she’s personally rin — may mga individuals na most likely na pwede naming isama dito for recommendation for charges,” Enverga told reporters.
(Of course I don’t want to preempt the committee report, out of respect to our members. But I personally — Cong Stella, she also personally wants this — that there are individuals who most likely will be included in the recommendation for charges.)
“But of course, we’ll have to, again, review lahat ng ating mga (review all of our) documentation to ensure naman na there is a fair chance given to the individuals that we are also pursuing,” he added.
As to whether government officials would be included among the possible respondents, Enverga maintained that he would have to wait for the committee’s consensus.
However, he pointed out that such a big cartel operation cannot survive without the help of someone in the government,
“I personally again, babalik ko po do’n sa subjective to the appreciation of our members as well, (but) tulad ng sinabi ni Cong. Stella, for a cartel to thrive, kinakailangan may kasama rin tayo sa gobyerno. Hindi mangyayari po ‘yong cartel, hindi magiging successful po ‘yong mga operations nila kung walang kasabwat,” Enverga explained.
(Again, personally, I maintain that this is subjective to the appreciation of our members as well, but as what Cong. Stella said, for a cartel to thrive, they need people in government to work with them. Cartels would not form and thrive and eventually do operations if they were not conniving with someone.)
“So again, we will look back at our transcripts and everything and see from them, and we’ll keep you posted on that,” he added.
He also appealed for understanding as the committee report may take up to two weeks before being finalized, as they have conducted nine lengthy hearings about the issue of onion hoarding and price manipulation.
Enverga also said they would have to discuss first if another set of hearings are needed or if the committee already has enough information and evidence to proceed with its recommendations.
“Probably in the next two weeks, siguro matapos natin (ang committee report). I hope lang for, we beg for the understanding of everyone ano, medyo ang dami pong na-subpoena na hindi lang tao kun’di dokumento. So we will ensure naman that they’re all properly backed up naman by documentary evidence,” he noted.
(Maybe we can finish the committee report in the next two weeks. I hope, we beg for the understanding of everyone because a lot of subpoenas were issued, not only for individuals but also for documents. So we will also ensure that they’re all properly backed up by documentary evidence.)
A day after the panel’s ninth hearing, Enverga and Quimbo held a press conference where the Marikina lawmaker said that she is convinced that controversial agriculture trader Lilia “Leah” Cruz is still the ‘sibuyas queen’ (onion queen).
Quimbo explained that an assessment of documents obtain through the course of the hearings linked Cruz, who founded the Phil Vieva Corporation, to several other firms that are deeply involved in the onion industry.
The lawmaker said this means PhilVieva is involved in every aspect of the onion industry — from farming, trading, cold storage, and trucking — by having different companies operate as partners.
Quimbo also said that cartels take advantage of onion farmers by either claiming that imported onions are cheaper or that cold storage facilities are already filled up.