Sweet-toothed rascals

The discredited pair of resigned Sugar Regulatory Administration chief Hermenegildo Serafica and Department of Agriculture undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian made pathetic efforts to save their hides amid the sugar import mess.

Upon questioning from Senator Risa Hontiveros, the pair wanted to create the impression that they were merely guided by the Malacañang position and the recommendation of the industry in coming up with Sugar Order 4, the illegal program for the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar.

Sebastian went back to the excuse that importation was resorted to as a result of “the rising price of sugar” that, he claimed, “raised a lot of concern from different sectors, from the private sector, from the industry, even from the other departments of government.”

Moreover, he stressed the urgency of the situation was recognized as it was the sugar shortage that became the topic of the Cabinet meeting on 1 August.

Thus, the former official took Hontiveros, the whole Senate, and even the public for fools in his attempt to cover up the importation racket with Serafica.

His claim of a shortage resulting in higher prices of the commodity was already debunked through the raids conducted by the government on warehouses of big millers, where practically mountains of bags of sugar were found.

Sebastian indicated that the President, in a meeting on the sugar supply situation, ordered the SRA to act fast to “redirect classification, we have to do it as soon as possible, reclassification from reserved to domestic use of sugar. The second was the need to augment our local supplies through importation.”

The priority, thus, was to reclassify quota sugar for domestic use, which producers said can immediately augment the market with 10,000 metric tons or about 20,000 50-kilo bags of high-grade sugar.

Subsequent events, however, proved that the disgraced officials merely focused on importation while disallowing the conversion of sugar earmarked for the US tariff rate quota scheme.

Sugar producers have shown Daily Tribune a series of communications with both Serafica and former DA secretary William Dar informing them of the available 10,000 metric tons that should be reclassified for domestic use.

Serafica and Dar, citing an SRA board resolution, which they did not show stakeholders, rejected the proposal.

To save face, Sebastian even asserted in the Senate probe that he was merely suspended and not terminated.

Sebastian resigned amid the fiasco since he was the signatory of SO 4 on behalf of President Marcos through an authority that was given to him by Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez, in a 15 July memorandum designating him as DA Undersecretary for Operations.

The directive of President Marcos was for the SRA to come up with an importation plan, but Serafica and his cohorts proceeded with SO 4.

There is an obvious attempt to pass on the blame to Malacañang for the drafting of SO 4.

The Palace had stated that the instruction of Mr. Marcos was for the drafting of a plan for importation and not issuing a Sugar Order and signing it.

Beleaguered Serafica and Sebastian should be prevented from worming out of a tight spot they created.

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