Raps vs ex-SRA execs pushed

September 9, 2022

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee has recommended the filing of administrative and criminal charges against four resigned Sugar Regulatory Administration officials over the botched plan to import 300,000 metric tons of sugar.

Panel chair Sen. Francis Tolentino revealed their recommendation after asking for a three-minute suspension of its hearing on the alleged overpriced laptops bought by the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management for the use of public school teachers.

The charges were raised against former Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian, former SRA administrator Hermenegildo Serafica, and resigned SRA board members Roland Beltran and Aurelio Gerardo Valderrama Jr.

The Blue Ribbon Committee sought graft, smuggling, and usurpation of official functions against the four.

Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez was cleared by the committee of involvement in the effort to import the sweetener through Sugar Order 4 signed by Sebastian for and on behalf of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the concurrent DA Secretary and SRA chair.

Sebastian claimed a 15 July memorandum by Rodriguez prompted him to sign SO 4. Out of 17 members of the Senate panel, 14 signed the committee report, with one expressing a dissenting opinion.

The panel also advised the Office of the Ombudsman to file administrative charges against the four officials for serious dishonesty, grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty, conduct prejudicial to the best interests of the service, and gross insubordination.

Meanwhile, during Thursday’s resumption of the House joint committee hearing on good government and agriculture, SAGIP Rep. Rodante Marcoleta wondered why Rodriguez wasn’t invited to attend the probe.

Marcoleta said that without Rodriguez’s testimony, they would not get the complete picture on the affidavit of Serafica alleging that SO 4 was signed because it was established that there was a sugar shortage.

According to him, Rodriguez was present in a meeting with SRA officials and that they were allegedly instructed to draft an order for the importation.

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