DA, FTI officials sacked over 2022 onion deal
The Ombudsman on Friday dismissed two officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Food Terminal Inc. (FTI) over the latter’s questionable procurement of onions from Bonena Multipurpose Cooperative in 2022.
The Ombudsman dismissed DA Assistant Secretary for consumer affairs Kristine Evangelista for grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, and FTI vice president for operations John Gabriel Trinidad III for gross neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
Their dismissal also included the cancellation of their civil service eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits and perpetual disqualification for re-employment in the government service.
In a 26-page resolution, the Ombudsman also junked the same administrative raps against DA Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban, FTI president Robert Tan, DA Chief Accountant Lolita Jamela, DA Administrative Officer Eunice Biblanias and FTI budget division head Juanita Lualhati were dismissed for insufficiency of evidence.
Criminal charges against the five said officials were also dismissed for lack of probable cause.
The administrative raps against Tan were dismissed as he will be a witness in the case.
Falsification of documents
The Ombudsman also recommended the filing of graft and falsification of documents charges against Evangelista, Trinidad, Bonena chair Israel Reguyal, Benedict Libres, Marlon Pagsisihan, Jocelyn Jane, Rossul Batadhay, Romy Jimeno, Charlito Ylanan, Francisco Laplana III, Arnold Osorio, Angelo Lajom, Randy Santos, Erickson Cortez, Ruben Bautista, Vince Lorenzo, Windell Glenn Canaan and AJ Bamala.
In late 2022, prices of red onions went up to P600 per kilogram from P180 per kg due to the shortage of red onions in the local market.
The DA’s Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Service then introduced the Kadiwa Food Mobilization Project in which agri-fishery commodities were directly brought to Metro Manila without going through middlemen and allotted P140 million for the project.
The DA entered into a memorandum of agreement with the FTI on a Kadiwa Food Hub project while the FTI also entered a deal with Bonena for the delivery of 8,845 sacks of onions at 28 kg per bag.
But Evangelista maintained that she was “not corrupt” despite the Ombudsman’s dismissal.
“Everyone I worked with knows I am not corrupt … This can be proven by the farmers and other stakeholders with whom I have previously worked,” Evangelista said in a statement sent to reporters.
Evangelista insisted that she was able to extend aid to farmers, farmworkers, vendors and consumers during her four-year tenure.
“I believe that there is a solution to the food crisis we are facing and [the government] has the responsibility to implement programs to protect and serve every Filipino,” she said.
“If we continue what we have started, we will be able to solve the food crisis,” Evangelista added.
In December 2022, the price of locally produced red onions sold in Metro Manila soared to P380 per kg from P180 per kg in 2021. INQ