Bureaucratic gross incompetence

When the sugar imbroglio came out on 10 August 2022, the same Cabinet member, apart from irresponsibly tagging Mr. Sebastian as committing an unlawful act, was quick to absolve the Executive Secretary as having no part in the ‘illegal’ issuance of SO4.

September 4, 2022

The bureaucratic gross incompetence of the two high government officials in the Palace, who instead of serving the President well by performing their mandated tasks coherently and responsibly and shielding their principal of embarrassment are incredulously and clumsily eroding the political capital of the President he acquired by his overwhelming victory in the presidential elections, is so palpable that one wonders how they could have snatched such sensitive and powerful positions.

That they are lawyers makes it more scandalous and brazen.

How could Mr. Sebastian be accused by the Press Secretary of committing an illegal act in issuing Sugar Order No. 4 authorizing the importation of 300 metric tons of sugar, when he was precisely given such authority by virtue of the 15 July 2022 memorandum issued by the Executive Secretary, “By Authority of the President?”

How could SO4 be an unlawful act when such issuance was subject to the approval of the President per the delegated power contained in the 15 July 2022 grant of delegated authority to Mr. Sebastian, to wit:

“It is understood that all acts of the Undersecretary for Operations that are performed pursuant to the above-mentioned authorities and in accordance with existing laws, rules and regulations, shall be considered valid unless subsequently disapproved or reprobated by the President.”

In other words, SO4 was in the nature of a recommendatory act. How can a recommendation to import or an importation plan be illegal?

The Executive Secretary was quoted as saying that the SO4 was never implemented as it was disapproved. As stated otherwise, it was just a plan or an idea. It never saw the lightning of life. No consequent damage to the government or the taxpayers. So how in heaven’s name can it be illegal?

The Press Secretary insists there is no shortage, why did the President direct the newly constituted Sugar Regulatory Administration to authorize the importation of 150 metric tons of sugar, if there is no shortage?

When the operatives of the Bureau of Customs intercepted 7,000 metric tons of sugar at the Subic port onboard vessel M/V Bangpakaew, there was a hasty conclusion that the importation papers were recycled, and the voice coming from the Palace just as quickly embraced it to justify the claim that there was an artificial shortage. When it was clarified by the SRA that the importation paper is in order and the 7,000 metric tons of sugar were part of Sugar Order No. 3 on the importation of 200,000 metric tons of sugar approved by the SRA Board in May this year, the Customs operatives who subsequently said the imported 7,000 metric tons were covered by recycled papers corrected themselves and validated the authenticity of the importation papers. By so doing, they were immediately relieved from their Custom duties. Only to be reinstated later after an investigation showed that the import documents were valid.

So was the case of the so-called “raids” conducted by the Bureau of Customs on several huge warehouses that showed thousands of stocked sacks of sugar. The reckless conclusion emanating from the side of the Pasig River was they were being hoarded as a prelude to price manipulation by the owners to justify again the claim of artificial shortage. It turned out later that most of them were already purchased and just waiting to be taken out by the buyers.

When the sugar imbroglio came out on 10 August 2022, the same Cabinet member, apart from irresponsibly tagging Mr. Sebastian as committing an unlawful act, was quick to absolve the Executive Secretary as having no part in the “illegal” issuance of SO4, when at that time no one was even accusing the ES of any involvement thereof because she made the public believed that he only learned of the existence of SO4 when the same was posted in the website of the Sugar Regulatory Administration.

Subsequent events, later on, proved that it was the Executive Secretary, by his own admission before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, who asked Mr. Sebastian to prepare the sugar importation plan and to prepare the draft of Sugar Order No. 4.

Moreover, sworn testimonies of Mr. Leocadio Sebastian and former SRA chair Hermenegildo Serafica, which have not been disputed by the ES, the latter was present during the 1 and 4 August meeting between him, Sebastian, and Serafica, as well as the President where the discussion was on the subject of sugar shortage and the need to import sugar. Mr. Sebastian in his latest testimony before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee said that the President instructed him to prepare the importation plan and to draft SO4, which by the way, the President has yet to dispute or confirm.

What is getting clearer by the day is that the official pronouncements by the two alter egos of the President on the sugar controversy do not jibe with the unfolding revelations and the documents extant in the record.

Significantly, the Executive Secretary’s excuse not to attend the subsequent hearings of the ongoing Senate investigation due to his work is unmeritorious. The Senators are correct in insisting on their right to cross-examine or to ask classificatory questions to the ES given that they were deprived of such inquisitorial right by the hurried departure of the ES after giving his statement before them.

A government official cannot invoke a convenient justification of the volume of official work to purposely avoid the queries to be thrown to him by the Senators relative to the declarations he made before the Senate committee.

At the start of the sugar mess, an unthinking high government official pompously declared: “Heads will roll!” Perhaps the first head to roll should be the person she is looking at in the mirror, and the second to follow is the one she is defending.

If that happens, it will be a classic case of poetic justice.

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