Resigned DA Usec. Sebastian: Scapegoat for incompetence?

In the mind of the public, there appears to be a perception that the issuance of the order authorizing the importation of 300 metric tons of sugar by resigned Department of Agriculture undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian and the members of the Sugar Regulatory Administration was an unlawful act, following the declaration from the mouthpiece in the Palace that the issued order was illegal and that the Sugar Regulatory Board had no authority to convene and to issue the said order.

The botched importation led to the resignations of the officials who signed the order.

Such perception is misplaced and grossly unfair to Mr. Sebastian and the other resigned officials. So is the accusation that they did an illegal act, reckless and irresponsible, not to mention that it was made out of ignorance of legal principles.

The issuance of Sugar Order 4 was not an illegal act. The officials that issued and signed the resolution were acting within the scope of their authority based on the official documents giving them the power to do so.

Quoted hereunder in full is the memorandum dated 15 July 2022 from the Executive Secretary addressed to resigned DA undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian, designating him as Undersecretary for Operations of the Department of Agriculture and granting him additional authorities and functions:


Office of the President of the Philippines Malacañang

Memorandum from the Executive Secretary

FOR: Undersecretary Leocadio S. Sebastian

Department of Agriculture

Subject: Designation as undersecretary for operations of the department of agriculture, and grant of additional authorities and functions

Date: 15 July 2022

In the exigency of the service and to ensure the continuous and effective delivery of government services to the public, please be informed that you are hereby designated as Undersecretary for Operations of the DA effective immediately, until a replacement is appointed or until otherwise directed by this Office.

In addition to your functions as Undersecretary for Operations. you are hereby AUTHORIZED to exercise the following functions:

a. Serve as the Chief-of-Staff of the Office of the Secretary of the DA;

b. 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, including those enumerated in DA General Memorandum Order 3 (s.2018), as amended by DA GMO 1 (s.2018);

c. Sit as ex-officio Chairman or Member of all duly constituted committees, councils, boards, or bodies where the Secretary of the DA is a member, or designate other DA officials to the same;

d. Act as the designated Head of Procuring Entity, and reconstitute the Bids and Awards Committee.

e. Appoint, reassign, and/or designate officials and employees of the Department, except those whose appointments are vested in the President or in some other appointing authority, as may be deemed necessary to ensure continuity and normalcy of operations, in accordance with relevant civil service laws, rules and regulations;

f. Exercise disciplinary powers over officers and employees under the Secretary, including their investigation and the designation of a committee or officer to conduct such investigation, in accordance with relevant laws, rules and regulations.


It is crystal clear from the quoted memorandum that Mr. Sebastian was granted additional functions and authorities. Among others, not only was he designated as the Chief of Staff of the Office of the Secretary of Agriculture, who is President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who concurrently holds the portfolio, but he was also authorized to “sign contracts, memoranda of agreement, administrative issuances, instruments, administrative and financial documents necessary to carry out the department objectives, policies, functions, plans and programs, and projects for the efficient and effective operation of the DA….”

Under the same memorandum, he was authorized to sit as “ex-officio chairman or member of all duly constituted committees, councils, boards or bodies where the Secretary of the DA is a member, or designate other DA official to the same.”

(To be continued)

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