Spicy sugar prospects

In the tumult that transpired over the aborted sugar importation scandal that had thus far resulted in the resignation of two officials of the Sugar Regulatory Administration, the culpability of Palace aides may be inescapable.

A copy of a memorandum signed by Executive Secretary Vic Rodriquez was obtained by Daily Tribune that clearly showed his designation of resigned Agriculture undersecretary Leocardio Sebastian with broad powers, including to “sign contracts” and other documents that involve the agency, and as head of the Department of Agriculture’s procuring entity.

Sebastian was also allowed to “reconstitute the Bids and Awards Committee.”

A legal luminary said Rodriguez’s mere appointment of Sebastian made the Executive Secretary liable for usurpation of authority.

The Administrative Code, or Executive Order 292, granted the appointment authority to the President and not to the Executive Secretary.

Section 46 of EO 292 regarding the appointment of undersecretaries and assistant secretaries stated: “The Undersecretaries and Assistant Secretaries of a Department shall, upon the nomination of the Secretary of the Department concerned, be appointed by the President.”

Under the provisions of the Administrative Code, the Executive Secretary can only appoint officials and employees of the Office of the President whose appointments are not vested in the President.

Under the 2016 revised implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act 9184, or the Government Procurement Reform Act, it is the head of the procuring entity that shall designate the members of the Bids and Awards Committee. Unless the President designated the Executive Secretary as head of the procuring entity of the DA, the head remains to be the Secretary, being the official on top of the agency.

Despite the resignation of Sebastian as Undersecretary for Operations, which was his designation in the memo that Rodriguez signed over the sugar importation hullabaloo, a lot of loose ends remain.

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles then cleared Rodriguez, saying that a verbal order directing Sebastian to come up with a sugar importation plan was misinterpreted.

Angeles opted to ignore Rodriguez’s memorandum and even the provisions of the EO, which were possibly violated. She averred Rodriguez issued a verbal order for the creation of an importation plan and not an importation bid.

It was the order, however, which resulted in the SRA importation resolution.

Palace officials by attempting to shield Rodriguez could be dragged into the evident cover-up attempt.

Provision B of the memorandum that Daily Tribune obtained granted Sebastian additional authorities and functions, including the authority to “sign contracts, memoranda of agreement, administrative issuances, instruments and administrative and financial documents necessary to carry out department objectives, functions, plans, programs, and projects, for the efficient and effective operations of the DA.…”

He was also given the power to sit as ex-officio chairman or member of committees, councils, boards, and bodies where Marcos as DA chief is a member, or designate other DA officials to these bodies.

Provision F gave Sebastian the power to impose disciplinary actions on all employees and officers under the Office of the Secretary, including their investigation.

On top of these, Sebastian was authorized by Rodriguez to act “as the designated Head of the Procuring Entity, and reconstitute the Bids and Awards Committee,” as well as appoint or reassign DA employees, except those who should be appointed by the President.

Despite the resignation of the SRA officials, more questions and mysteries are waiting to unravel.

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