‘SRA, DA execs usurped BBM’

Sugar planters have urged the Office of the Ombudsman to consider usurpation of power charges against resigned Sugar Regulatory Administration chief Hermenegildo Serafica and suspended Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian.

Both officials had been tagged as being behind Sugar Order 4 that Sebastian signed, bypassing the President who is also the head of the Department of Agriculture.

Serafica has dug his own grave by claiming that SO 4 has the imprimatur of the President, United Sugar Producers Federation Manuel Lamata said.

Lamata was referring to the statements made by Serafica during the Senate hearing on Tuesday where he claimed that Mr. Marcos was privy to the drafting of SO 4.

The industry, Lamata said, is responding to the call of Blue Ribbon Committee chairman Francis Tolentino “for the exposure of the truth behind the sugar importations fiasco.”

Rodriguez memo

Sebastian signed SO 4 for President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos based on the authority he derived from a 15 July memorandum of Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez authorizing him to sign documents in favor of the Chief Executive.

Lamata said a lot of disinformation has been coming from Serafica regarding the issue.

He maintained that the President did not approve Sugar Order 4 that Sebastian signed and which Serafica claimed was issued based on an instruction from the President.

“What was approved was an import plan, which is different from a sugar order,” according to Lamata.

He added an import plan is a program on how much should be bought from abroad, “when should importation be made and what will be the guidelines.”

National emergency?

Lamata said Serafica presented to stakeholders “the need for a resolution regarding the importation of 300,000 MT, utos ni Presidente (ordered by the President).”

“We were told that the importation volume was needed due to a national emergency,” the Unifed head said.

He quoted Serafica as saying that importation is needed “to bring down the prices of sugar for retail.”

“I signed a resolution supporting the importation telling myself ‘who am I to question the wisdom of the President,” Lamata said. “We were surprised when what came out in SO 4 was 150,000 refined and 150,000 raw sugar.”

He added: “I never acceded to that, I never said yes to that. They changed everything that they told us.”

Serafica and the company then used the resolution from stakeholders as an excuse in drafting SO 4 saying they have presented the order to industry members.

President Marcos subsequently allowed the importation of 150,000 metric tons of sugar divided equally between consumers and industrial users which was the right call, according to Lamata.

“Raw sugar is not needed by the market since sugar milling season had started,” he said. “In two months, refined sugar will also start to come in.”

About the bottlers’ claim of a 650,000 metric tons shortfall, Lamata branded it as nonsense.

This is being touted to support the soft drinks makers’ aim to get access to cheap imports.

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