Rodriguez Executive Secretary Victor Rodriguez

ES Rodriguez thanks senators for swift action vs ‘SO4 mess culprits’

September 8, 2022 People's Tonight 254 views

Blue Ribbon to file admin, criminal cases vs 4 execs in sugar fiasco

THE Senate Blue Ribbon Committee has recommended administrative and criminal charges against a senior official of the Department of Agriculture and three former Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) officials over the controversial Sugar Order No. 4.

Those who will be facing charges before the Office of the Ombudsman were suspended Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian; former SRA administrator Hermenegildo Serafica and former Sugar Regulatory Board (SRB) members Roland Beltran and Aurelio Gerardo Valderrama Jr.

The Blue Ribbon Committee report said “preliminary evidence on record” indicate that the four officials who signed SO-4 committed administrative offenses of serious dishonesty, grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, and gross insubordination.

The committee report said criminal charges against the four officials include graft and corruption, agricultural smuggling, and usurpation of official functions.

It can be recalled that the Blue Ribbon investigation was triggered by the privilege speech of Senate President Miguel Zubiri on SO-4 which was described by Malacanang as illegal as it was not approved by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. as chair of the Sugar Board by virtue of his being DA secretary.

Executive Secretary Victor Rodriguez, a resource person in the Blue Ribbon inquiry, thanked the panel members for their swift action in going to the bottom of the unauthorized SO-4 and moving for the filing of charges against those responsible for the illegal act.

“We thank the Blue Ribbon Committee members for their swift investigation which left no stone unturned. Rest assured that the committee recommendations will be taken to heart by the concerned agencies under the DA,” Rodriguez said.

The Blue Ribbon Committee, chaired by Senator Francis Tolentino, terminated its investigation on Tuesday after three hearings.

The Committee report signed by 14 out of 17 members with one dissenting opinion was read by General Counsel Gerard Mosquera during Thursday’s hearing of the same committee on the alleged overpriced laptops procured by the Department of Education.

“The committee secretary is directed to transmit the committee report to the appropriate government agencies for the filing of the proper cases relative to the committee report,” Tolentino said.

The Blue Ribbon committee also recommended the following remedial legislation:

1.Amendment of relevant legislation such as Executive Order No. 18 of RA 10659 and related laws to inject transparency and accountability in the process of issuing import permits and other critical issuances;

2. Amendment of EO 18 to provide for the expansion of the SRA Board to eight members with the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture continuing to act as ex-officio chairman and the addition of sectors represented such as additional board members to represent the consumers both industrial and household, sugar industry workers, sugar transportation sector workers, and other stakeholders in the success of the sugar industry;

3. Amendment of EO 18 to prohibit the delegation of the authority of the SRA Board to reclassify sugar;

4. Review and rationalization of the sugar importation policy of the government with full funding for Republic Act No. 10659 or An Act Promoting and Supporting the Competitiveness of the Sugarcane Industry; and

5. For SRA to prepare a sugar importation plan with appropriate safeguards for review of higher authority. By ANCHIT MASANGCAY