Office of Cabinet secretary under attack, says dismissed Usec
“It appears that the Office of Cabinet Secretary (OCS) Leoncio Evasco [was] under attack” by people who have President Rodrigo Duterte’s ears, former OCS Undersecretary Maia Chiara Halmen Valdez said of her dismissal on Wednesday over rice importation issues.
Valdez, who said in a statement that she remained supportive of the President and accepted his decision, however lashed out at National Food Authority Council (NFAC) Chief Jason Aquino, and accused Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol of meddling in the affairs of Evasco’s office.
The undersecretary, sacked by Mr. Duterte for allegedly defying the NFA decision to put rice importation on hold, said she was the eyes and ears of Evasco. who also chaired the NFAC, the NFA’s highest policy making body.
Valdez said Aquino refused to attend NFAC meetings and later defied the council’s decision to extend the deadline for rice imports under the minimum access volume scheme, from Feb. 28 to March 31.
Aquino had pushed for government-to-government rice importation to boost the NFA’s buffer stock, Valdez said, adding that “a state-led importation means additional debt to be incurred by the already debt-saddled NFA [that would] ultimately be paid by the government through taxpayer money.”
This explains why its proponents wanted to be prudent in undertaking it, Valdez said.
Aquino, she said, bypassed the council and went directly to President Duterte to request for the government-to-government importation of rice with a total volume of one million metric tons which, Valdez said, the country did not need.
Aquino and Piñol, she added, “[had] been meddling in the functions and affairs of the OCS,” and made it appear that there was a rice shortage in the country.
Valdez said that the NFAC’s and the OCS’s decisions, resolutions, actions and memoranda had been forwarded to Mr. Duterte through the Office of the Special Assistant to the President (Osap) headed by Christopher “Bong” Go.
But the former undersecretary wondered how Piñol and Aquino were able to reach Mr. Duterte when the NFAC’s request for a dialogue with the President through Go’s office had been unsuccessful.
“To date, it appears to us that this request, along with the documents submitted by the OCS, which were personally handed by the Cabinet secretary to the Osap head, have either failed to reach the President or have been tampered with,” Valdez said.
On the sidelines of a harvest festival in Nueva Ecija last week, Piñol confirmed that Valdez was fired for overruling Aquino’s decision to suspend rice importation as it was still harvest season.
“It’s over the issue of rice importation. She had a conflict with (NFA administrator) Aquino,” Piñol said in a text message about Valdez, an appointee of former President Benigno Aquino III./rga
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