Suspension of 23 NFA warehouse execs lifted

Suspension of 23 NFA warehouse execs lifted

Samuel Martires NFA warehouse

Samuel Martires

Twenty-three warehouse supervisors of the National Food Authority (NFA) who are part of a group implicated in the questionable sale last year of rice buffer stocks may soon resume work at the agency after their six-month preventive suspension was revoked by the Office of the Ombudsman.

“After a probe was conducted by our investigators, they recommended that the preventive suspension be lifted,” Ombudsman Samuel Martires told the Inquirer in a telephone on Friday.


Martires denied that the lifting was due to the alleged errors in the list of respondents, such as the inclusion of dead and retired employees as well as a worker on study leave.


“No errors, there are no errors [in the list],” he said.

Martires also noted that the reversal of the suspension order against the 23 NFA workers had “nothing to do with the (motion for reconsideration)” filed by 108 employees in the Office of the Ombudsman on Thursday.

The 23 employees, according to the Ombudsman, were assigned to NFA warehouses in Metro Manila, in the provinces of Antique and Iloilo, as well as in Cabanatuan City in Nueva Ecija province.

Asked whether more suspensions are expected to be set aside in the coming days, Martires said: “Yes. Hopefully, there will be more that will be recommended by the investigators.”

Only source of income

It remains unclear whether the 23 NFA workers given relief were among the 108 petitioners who asked the Office of the Ombudsman to set aside the suspension order, for fear that they would lose their only source of income for half a year.

In a motion filed by lawyers Dino de Leon and Raphael Rayco, the petitioners, mostly warehouse staff and some managers, said they should not be held accountable for the allegedly anomalous transactions with private traders. These deals involved the sale of 75,000 bags of supposedly “deteriorating or aging” milled rice at low prices, and without going through public bidding.


The NFA employees said they were just exercising “ministerial” tasks and did not possess discretionary powers on the processing of rice stocks.

READ: Gut-wrenching corruption

“The affected (NFA) employees are deeply saddened by the undue haste by which the Office of the Ombudsman carried out its preventive suspension without even substantiating the alleged involvement of each concerned employee,” said De Leon in an earlier statement.

According to Rayco, the petition was made for the NFA workers who, unlike the suspended high-ranking officials, lost their source of livelihood as they would serve the six-month suspension without pay.

The lawyers also pointed out what they described as glaring errors in the suspension order, which bore “wrong names and designations” of respondents, aside from the inclusion of employees no longer with the NFA.

The Inquirer on Friday tried to reach De Leon for confirmation on whether his clients had received the order lifting their suspension, but he had yet to reply at past 7 p.m.

An initial 139 NFA officials and employees, including NFA Administrator Roderico Bioco, were the subjects of the March 4 suspension order handed down by the Office of the Ombudsman after it found “sufficient grounds” to implicate them in the allegedly anomalous sale of deteriorating milled rice worth P93.75 million.

A week later, two more officials—recently named NFA Officer in Charge (OIC) Piolito Santos and acting department manager for operation and coordination Jonathan Yazon—were also suspended.

Although the rice stocks were sold for P25 a kilo, Bioco had said the food agency was authorized to dispose of aging stocks without the NFA Council’s approval or public bidding under existing rules.

‘Good news’

The Department of Agriculture (DA) on Friday said it had yet to receive a copy of the order lifting the suspension of the 23 NFA personnel, but it noted that the decision would help the families of the concerned employees.

On the government television program “Bagong Pilipinas Ngayon,” Agriculture Assistant Secretary Arnel de Mesa confirmed that Harold Cuartero, the NFA assistant branch manager in Batangas province, already received the said order.

“We are now waiting for the order lifting the suspension of more than 20 NFA personnel. This is good news for these employees because they were suspended without pay,” De Mesa, also the DA’s spokesperson, said.

“This will help them provide for their families again,” he added.

Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. again assumed the position of acting NFA chief until the NFA Council, which will convene on Monday, appoints a new OIC administrator to replace Santos.

DA Director Larry Lacson was also named OIC deputy administrator of the food agency.

“We want to stabilize the situation at the NFA following the events of last week,” Tiu Laurel said.

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“We want to help NFA employees during these challenging times to continue to provide uninterrupted service, especially during this harvest season,” he added. INQ

TAGS: anomalous NFA rice sale, NFA

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