NFA chief Arthur Juan quits amid extort raps
MANILA, Philippines—Hounded by allegations of extortion from a rice trader, National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator Arthur Juan has irrevocably resigned from his post, Secretary Francis Pangilinan said on Friday.
Juan tendered his irrevocable resignation in a letter to the NFA Council on Thursday afternoon after three months in office, said Pangilinan, presidential assistant on food security and agricultural modernization.
“It is with regret and sadness that we received yesterday afternoon the irrevocable resignation of Juan as NFA administrator,” Pangilinan, who is NFA Council chair, said in a statement.
Pangilinan said the 68-year-old Juan cited failing health as the main reason for his irrevocable resignation.
“He was deeply affected by the charges,” Pangilinan said in a text message when asked if the charges contributed to the resignation.
“I continue to believe he is innocent of the charges brought against him,” Pangilinan said. “This is a temporary setback in our reform efforts and it will not stop us from pursuing sweeping reforms in the NFA and the rice trade in the country.”
Pangilinan will take over as officer in charge of the NFA until Monday.
Based on the rules governing the NFA Council, the NFA’s highest policymaking body, the NFA chair can take over temporarily for only two working days.
The NFA is one of four agricultural agencies that was placed under Pangilinan’s authority when he was appointed by President Aquino last May.
The other three are the National Irrigation Administration, Philippine Coconut Authority and the Fertilizer and Pesticides Authority.
Pangilinan said that President Benigno Aquino III, who arrived Thursday night from a working visit to the United States, has been informed of Juan’s resignation.
“P-noy said that we are to meet and discuss next steps,” he said.
“The NFA Council is scheduled to meet on Tuesday and we will designate an OIC pending the permanent appointment [of a successor] by the President,” Pangilinan said in an interview.
The President appointed Juan to the NFA post on June 24. Prior to his government stint, he was president of San Miguel Foods Inc. (SMFI) from 2005 to 2009 and head of Monterey Foods Corp. from 1999 to 2003.
Weeks after the extortion charges surfaced, Juan and his assistant, lawyer Patricia Galang, offered to resign in mid-August, but were prevailed upon by Pangilinan to stay.
Jomerito “Jojo” Soliman, owner of a warehouse in Bulacan province that was raided and padlocked by authorities, accused Juan and Galang of extorting some P15 million from him.
The amount was purportedly in exchange for the dropping of charges against him and the reopening of his padlocked warehouse.
In a sworn statement submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation in August, Soliman said Juan told him that P5 million each was meant for Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Pangilinan and himself.
The officials strongly denied the charges. All three officials were present during the raid.
According to the NFA, the warehouse was shuttered upon the discovery that animal feeds were being mixed with imported Thai rice and passed off as “sinandomeng” rice to the public.
The raid also resulted in the suspension of Soliman’s license to trade. The trader is also facing charges of violating the Price Act.
Lito Banayo, who headed the NFA from July 2010 to Oct. 30, 2012, is also facing a graft complaint before the Ombudsman over his alleged failure to screen farmer organizations and cooperatives that won the bidding for permits to import rice.
He quit his post in 2013.
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