Miscarriage of justice (2)

Unfortunately, the government perennially has failed to respond to the continuing problem of low production, which arises from its failure to support the sugar planters.

September 13, 2022

Moreover, the Executive Secretary likewise admitted receiving on 5 August 2022 the memorandum of the same date from Mr. Sebastian addressed to the President, informing the latter that due to the sugar shortage, the SRA was recommending importation of 300,000 metric tons, and that the SRA would be convening to approve the same, with the draft SO4 attached thereof. The said memorandum requested guidance and approval of the sugar importation.

The ES likewise acknowledged receiving two text messages from Mr. Sebastian following up on the approval of the said recommendation and the draft SO4. He said he purposely did not respond to the requested guidance and approval nor to the follow-up text messages. He must explain why he ignored those communications given the urgent nature of the subject matter. He should tell the Senate committee if he informed the President on those communications, and if he did not, why not?

It would appear now that since, according to ES, he purposely ignored the 5 August 2022 memorandum and the said two follow-up text messages from Mr. Sebastian, it could be reasonably assumed that ES intentionally misled Mr. Sebastian into believing that both the President and him were in accord with the SO4, for after all, by his admission, he was the one who asked the preparation of the draft of SO4 authorizing the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar. Also per the testimonies of Mr. Serafica and Mr. Valderama, the President directed the former to draft SO4 in their online meeting of 4 August 2022.

The ES must also explain why he could not give a definitive answer as to whether or not there was an online meeting between Mr. Serafica, Mr. Valderama and the President on 4 August 2022 where Mr. Serafica asserted that the President instructed him to prepare the importation plan and to draft SO4, an assertion corroborated by Mr. Valderama but denied by the ES, claiming there was no such online meeting between the President and Messrs. Serafica and Valderama.

However, on questioning of Sen. Risa Hontiveros if ES could provide the transcript of the online meeting to the Senate committee, he suddenly became unequivocal and sheepishly said he would check if there was an online meeting.

Such ambivalent demeanor of the ES gives one the eerie feeling that he is not being upfront. If as he claimed there was no such online meeting on 4 August 2022, why would he still check if there was one?
It appears likewise that the chairperson of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, while trying hard to verbalize that he is impartial and not despotic unlike his controversial predecessor, his demeanor in the Senate committee hearing gives the opposite image. He made statements that seem to prejudge the outcome of the then ongoing legislative inquiry. Before the mass media, he stated that there was irregularity in the matter of the issuance of the SO4 and that the committee would definitely recommend the filing of administrative and criminal charges against those involved in its issuance, while the Senate investigation was going on. He also had the habit of butting in and arguing with the resource person who is under questioning by a committee member and insisting on his preconceived belief on a particular matter, in the process derailing the trend of thought of the inquiring Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III.

He prides himself to have finished a Senate investigation and submitting a report in record time, forgetting that it is not the shortness of time that matters in an inquiry but its impartiality, thoroughness and ferreting out of the truth on the subject matter that is paramount.

Unfortunately, the Senate report and its recommendation to file administrative and criminal charges against Messrs. Sebastian, Serafica, Valderama and Beltran dismally fail in the test of impartiality, thoroughness and truth, not to mention its utter lack of legal basis.

All questions pertaining to the sugar controversy revolve around the three vital issues for resolution, they are:

1. Is there a shortage of sugar supply in the country?

2. What is the policy of the government to remedy the shortfall of sugar supply?

3. Who has the duty and the authority to abort the sugar shortage?

As to the first issue of whether or not there is presently a sugar shortage, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, in its final report, established that there is such a shortage, and stated it in its report, to wit:

“23. Observations, Findings and Discussion”

“The SRA Supply Data and the preponderance of the evidence presented to the Committee indicate that there may have been an actual sugar shortage or at the very least anticipated sugar supply shortfalls prior to the issuance of Sugar Order 4.”

One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist or a genius to know there is presently a shortage of sugar. It takes only common sense to know. Every year, production of sugar is low and hence, insufficient to fill in the huge demand for it by the manufacturers of products that require sugar as a component thereof, and the end users as well. When the supply of sugar cannot meet the demand for it, necessarily the prices will go up, following the law of supply and demand. From a low of P50 a kilo, it has skyrocketed to P100 per kilo. That is an indication that the quantity of the shortage of sugar is increasing.

We go to issue Number 2. What is the remedy for the shortfall? Stated differently, what is the policy of the government to prevent such shortage and to stabilize the price of sugar and halt its spiral?

Again, the answer is common sense. Either increase the local production or buy or import from sugar-producing countries to fill up the vacuum created by the insufficiency of supply of sugar. This has been the policy of the government for many years. Unfortunately, the government perennially has failed to respond to the continuing problem of low production, which arises from its failure to support the sugar planters by way of modernizing the method of planting and harvesting sugar cane and processing it to refined sugar. It has not consistently supported the small plantation owners in giving them loans to convert their old ways of planting to mechanized farming. The implementation of the law on comprehensive land reform had the effect of reducing the size and the number of agricultural lands for the planting of sugar cane. The irrigation system has yet to be fully installed in many sugar cane plantations. All these result in a low yield of sugar produce.

The next best thing and the most practical way of neutralizing the shortage would be for the government to authorize the importation of sugar.

Primarily, the government agency tasked to promote, develop and protect the growth of the sugar industry is the Sugar Regulatory Administration.

(To be continued)

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