Sugar import probe extensive — Palace

The investigation into the foiled attempt to “illegally” import 300,000 metric tons (MT) of sugar will be “extensive” and will not only cover the resolution issued by the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA), Malacañang on Friday said.

At a Laging Handa briefing, Press Secretary Trixie Cruz Angeles said the investigation would ascertain the “persons involved” and the “extent of their involvement.”

Sinu-sino ang  involved dito? Ano yung extent ng kanilang involvement? (Who are involved here? What is the extent of their involvement?) Was it attended with malice? Was it negligence? Was it simply just bad judgment?” she said.

Aside from the Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian and other officials, Angeles said the probe will determine “who else is involved” in the fiasco.

She earlier identified Sebastian as the one who “signed for and on behalf” of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on the Sugar Regulatory Administration Sugar Order 4.

“Such signing was not authorized by the President,” Angeles emphasized in a press briefing on Friday.

She said the DA undersecretary’s role “as the alternate of the President is merely to be present in those meetings that the President cannot attend.”

The President called for an immediate investigation after he learned about the resolution, according to Angeles.

“An investigation is ongoing to determine whether any act that would cause the President to lose trust and confidence in his officials can be found or if there is malice or negligence involved,” Angeles said.

Heads to roll

“In such a case, if such findings are made, then the only determination left will be how many heads are going to roll,” she added.

In response, Senator Imee Marcos — the President’s sister — urged his brother to immediately reshuffle Agriculture executives and “dismantle criminal syndicates within the government.”

Marcos has direct control of the DA as its Secretary, with Undersecretary Sebastian as his chief-of-staff of the department.

In a memorandum issued by the Office of the Executive Secretary dated 15 July 2022, Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez designated Sebastian as “undersecretary for operations” of the DA and granted him “additional authorities and functions.”

“You are hereby authorized… to sign contracts, memoranda of agreement, administrative issuances, instruments, and administrative and financial documents necessary to carry out department objectives, policies, functions, plans, programs and projects, for the efficient and effective operations of the DA…,” the memorandum read.

Sebastian was also authorized to “act as the designated head of the Procuring Entity and reconstitute the Bids and Awards Committee.”

Moreover, the memorandum stated that Sebastian is authorized to “implement policies and standards for the efficient and effective operations of the DA, in accordance with the directive and priority programs of the President” as well as to “perform such other powers… be so delegated.”

It is unclear by now, however, whether Sebastian, as designated undersecretary, is authorized to sign resolutions on behalf of the President.

The Daily Tribune has reached out to the Civil Service Commission (CSC) to determine whether designated government officials like Sebastian have the legal personality to sign official documents.

Neither CSC chairperson Karlo Nograles nor Commissioner Aileen Lizada has yet to respond to the queries.

However, Executive Order 292 section 46, signed on 25 July 1987, provides that: “The Undersecretaries and Assistant Secretaries of Department shall, upon the nomination of the Secretary of the Department concerned, be appointed by the President.”

In Sebastian’s case his appointment did not come down the President, but a designation from Executive Secretary Rodriguez.


Sugar industry stakeholders, meantime, said suspending the “ill-advised” importation of 300,000 MT of sugar is a favorable development for the planters. Instead of flooding the market with cheap goods, they said the government should focus on ramping up local production.

The Asociacion de Agricultores de La Carlota y Pontevedra Inc. (AALCPI), the La Carlota Mill District Multi-Purpose Cooperative (LCMDMPC), and the United Sugar Producers Federation (UNIFED) welcomed the scrapping of the Sugar Order 4 that sought to initially import 300,000 MT of sugar.

“With the start of the milling season, the need to import additional sugar is ill-advised. We are thankful that President Marcos vetoed the order as five mills in Negros Occidental already resumed operations,” AACLPI and LCMDMPC General Manager David Alba said.

Alba noted that under the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) Sugar Order 3, about four million bags of sugar are still unreleased. The order allowed for the importation of 200,000 MT of refined sugar composed of both bottlers’ grade and standard refined grade.

The agency previously planned to import another 350,000 MT of sugar to further boost the domestic sugar supply and prevent price spikes, but it did not push through after it received a legal opinion from the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel.

Thus, to address the perceived sugar supply shortage in the country, we are recommending to President Marcos to reverse the SRA order and instead, release this sugar for the benefit of the consumers and retailers, he added.

Historically, the country must have carryover stocks of 250,000 MT of raw sugar and around 200,000 MT to 250,000 MT of refined sugar at the end of any crop year.

DA, SRA need revamp

In a separate statement, UNIFED president Manuel Lamata also thanked the President for revoking SO 4 and joined the call issued by Senator Marcos to “revamp” the DA and the SRA amid the investigation into the alleged illegality of the recent sugar order.

“We are joining the call of Sen. Marcos because it is very apparent already that these officials are not looking out for the interest of the industry,” Lamata said.

“The fact that SO 4 included the importation of raw sugar when the milling season has already started “indicates these people governing the very agency that is supposed to protect us, are out to destroy us,” Lamata added.

UNIFED is the biggest sugar federation in the country while AALCPI is the biggest independent sugar association with a membership of 11,000 sugar farmers.


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