Sebastian confronted over illegal sugar reso

Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez on Tuesday said that he confronted resigned Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian over the importation order, which supposedly would have authorized the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar into the country.

Rodriguez, who was among the officials summoned by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to investigate the controversial sugar fiasco, said that he was informed about Sugar Order No. 4 during his meeting in Malacanang on 10 August.

He was referring to the importation order, which the Office of the Press Secretary later tagged as “illegal,” since President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., concurrent head of the Department of Agriculture, was not consulted about the resolution.

Rodriguez added that the resolution was also approved without even convening the board of the Sugar Regulatory Administration.

“I confronted Usec. Leo Sebastian and asked him why he did such a thing behind the president’s back, without the president’s knowledge and in an unfair and dishonorable way,” he said.

He then asked Sebastian to call former SRA administrator Hermenegildo Serafica and SRA Board Member Roland Beltran and put them on speaker phone to ask them the same thing.

“What his answer to me was, what his response to me was: ‘I thought it was already approved according to Usec. Leo” the official said.

The executive secretary said that Beltran also gave the same answer.

Sebastian, Serafica, and Beltran are three of the four signatories of the controversial resolution — have all resigned from their posts following the sugar fiasco.

Prior to the issuance of the importation order, Rodriguez recalled that they had several meetings where sugar problems were discussed.

He noted that he had a meeting on 4 August, where he requested an importation plan and a draft sugar order for the proposed importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar.

“I specifically requested that in the event there’s really a need for the government to import, to resort to another round of sugar importation, I asked for the import plan,” Rodriguez said.

“I also asked who will be accredited, and an answer to our query if the PITC (Philippine International Trading Corporation) may import on behalf of industrial and for home consumption sugars and finally, if we may be given a draft Sugar Order for their proposed 300,000 metric tons new round of importation,” he added.

Rodriguez said they received a draft sugar order from Serafica the following day. He also received the recommendation to import 300,000 metric tons of sugar from Sebastian.

Rodriguez said Sebastian sent him text messages on 7 and 8 August, asking if the chief executive has any instructions regarding sugar and fertilizer.

However, he admitted that he “purposely” did not respond top the queries, citing that “these are the matters that are still on the table of the acting secretary of the Department of Agriculture.”

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