Imee bares DA racket

Senator Imee Marcos on Sunday said she does not believe that there’s a shortage of white onions, saying it’s part of an old “modus operandi” perpetrated by alleged smugglers lording it over the Department of Agriculture (DA).

“First they smuggle,” said the elder sister of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. “Then they create a shortage, and produce a legitimate import permit.”

“We are aware of the modus operandi going on. It’s the same old story. It just keeps repeating itself,” she said.

The senator said that by next week, she does not doubt that smuggled onions “will flood the market covered by a ‘legitimate’ importation order of gargantuan proportions.”

She disclosed that at the height of the sugar import fracas last week, some P36 million worth of onions misdeclared as “spring roll patties” and “plain churros” were confiscated in Misamis Oriental province.

On the alleged shortage of white onions, Sen. Marcos said the DA “has not presented inventories of the crop vis-à-vis its planting and harvest seasons.”

“The DA was urged to assess white onion shortage, as it was asked on sugar and porcine PAP (processed animal protein) shortages,” she pointed out.

“Again, no data could be presented, just blanket claims that ‘Wala po talagang laman ang mga bodega ng pinuntahan namin’ (The warehouses we inspected were really empty).”

The lawmaker, again, minced no words to call out smugglers.

“Quit it, you’ve been exposed! You can’t fool us anymore!” she went on.

Last week, Sen. Marcos criticized the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) which attempted to import 300,000 metric tons of sugar without the authorization of the President who also serves as agriculture secretary.

The controversy led to the resignation of Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian who approved the importation proposal.

In his resignation letter, he took all the responsibility for the “unauthorized” convening of the Sugar Regulatory Board.

While Press Secretary Trixie Cruz Angeles disclosed that it was Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez who asked SRA to “create an importation plan,” he did not ask agriculture officials to sign the “illegal” resolution.

Rodriguez had earlier designated Sebastian as “undersecretary for operations” of the DA and granted him “additional authorities and functions.”

An investigation, headed by Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs Richard Palpalatoc, is ongoing to determine the officials involved in the illegal resolution and the extent of their liabilities.

Aside from Sebastian, the SRA’s Sugar Order 4 was also signed by board vice chairperson Hermenegildo Serafica; board members Rolan do Beltran and Aurelio Gerardo Valderrama Jr., representing the millers and planters, respectively.

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