Ringmaster cons Senate

The effort to take the Senate for a ride was too palpable in the narration of Hermenegildo Serafica on claiming that Sugar Order 4 had the initial approval of President Ferdinand “Bongbng” Marcos Jr. and that the 300,000 metric tons received industry approval.

If at all, the industry that Serafica should be referring to would only be the Philippine Sugar Millers Association of businessman Pablo Lobregat who admitted before the Senate Blue Ribbon panel of having recommended the volume in the importation program.

In the hearing on 30 August, Serafica kept on dwelling on the President was informed of the supply situation on sugar and that he instructed the crafting of an importation plan.

He intentionally left details in his chronicle of events.

The plan was approved but Serafica admitted that the amount of imported sugar was not taken up.

Serafica did not specify that only the plan and not the actual importation was discussed during his meeting with the President.

“At that point, your honor, there was no volume talked about,” Serafica ceded only when Senator Risa Hontiveros asked if he received a “go signal from Malacanang on the 300,000 metric tons volume.”

Thereafter, Serafica said he was only directed to “prepare a draft order on another import program for SRA board approval.”

He then indicated that the proposal received the approval of the industry and that nobody objected.

It was during the industry meeting that the 300,000 metric tons importation volume surfaced.

United Sugar Producers Federation president Manuel Lamata best described what transpired next.

Lamata said their organization was misled about the intent of President Marcos.

His group was made to believe that the President ordered the sugar importation of 300,000 MT when the SRA sought their backing which led to the drafting of SO 4.

‘This is what the President wanted because it is an emergency and because the prices are too high,” Lamata quoted Serafica as saying.

“So who am I to question the wisdom of the President?” Lamata said.

Marcos, however, disapproved of the SRA plan but later on authorized half of the volume to be imported.

After we “agreed with (the importation of) 300,000 metric tons of refined sugar, lo and behold the SO 4 came out, for the purchase of 150,000 raw or brown and 150,000 refined sugar,” he said.

The planters had the impression that the order will cover only refined sugar imports.

Lamata said the industry group disagreed with the final equation because it will come in October or November right during the milling season.

Only the mills which have refineries that can process brown sugar benefit from the importation because they will collect refining charges.

Serafica earlier admitted to crafting the SO 4 draft on his own without the knowledge of deputy administrator Guillermo Tejida.

His excuse was that what he crafted was an importation plan which he did not want “to let anybody know until such time it will reach the Office of the President.”

Sadly, Serafica believes that the Senators and Filipinos observing the sugar fracas were all born yesterday.

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