Miscarriage of justice (3)

The intentional failure by the Executive Secretary not to respond to the August 5 memorandum, his ignoring the two text follow-up messages of Mr. Sebastian as well his failure to inform the President of such communications by Mr. Sebastian is a gross dereliction of duty and a badge of fraud on the part of the recipient.

September 15, 2022

By way of review, there are only three issues to get a truthful resolution of the sugar fiasco, they are: Is there a shortage of sugar supply in the country; What is the policy of the government to remedy the shortfall of sugar supply; and lastly who has the duty and the authority to abort the sugar shortage?

That there is a sugar shortage is already out of the question. We have been having such shortfalls since 2013 because of the low production of sugar cane. Moreover, all the stakeholders in the sugar industry agree that there is an insufficiency of the supply of sugar to meet the huge demand. Moreover, the President himself acknowledged such deficiency and ordered the newly constituted Sugar Regulatory Administration, following the resignation of the three members, the importation of 150 thousand metric tons of sugar. The Executive Secretary in his testimony before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee likewise admitted such a fact. Likewise, the senate committee acknowledged such a shortage in its report.

As to the second issue for resolution, we said the policy of the government to respond to such a problem is increased production, failing therefrom, importation of sugar becomes mandatory. Since increased production is unavailing for various reasons, the government has no other choice but to import sugar. Otherwise, the spiraling of the price of sugar will be unabated to the sufferance of the manufacturers, consumers, and other players in the sugar industry.

We come to the third important issue. Who has the duty and authority to resolve such an urgent impending crisis?

Under the law, the Sugar Regulatory Administration is tasked to promote and develop the growth of the sugar industry and to protect the sugar planters and end users. Necessarily, it becomes its paramount obligation to ensure a sufficient supply of sugar.

The President in his desire to personally oversee the efficient and sufficient supply of agricultural products and by-products concurrently took the helm of the Department of Agriculture. But since he is saddled with other pressing presidential duties, the 15 July 2022 memorandum was issued by the Executive Secretary “By authority of the President” designating Mr. Sebastian, as Undersecretary for Operations, and Chief of Staff of the Secretary of Agriculture, who is the President.

In addition, and among others, he was given the additional authority to sign contracts, memorandum of agreements, and administrative issuances, to carry out the policies and efficient operation of the Department of Agriculture, to sit as ex-officio chairman of the duly constituted committee and boards where the Secretary of Agriculture is a member, implement policies by the directives and priority programs of the President.

The 15 July 2022 grant of delegated power succinctly and expressly states that all the actions performed by Mr. Sebastian by the aforesaid added authorities and existing laws shall be VALID unless disapproved by the President.

It becomes crystal clear that the duty and the authority to arrest the sugar shortage fell on the shoulders of Mr. Sebastian and the SRA members.

Following that grant of the said delegated authority, meetings (face to face and online) were conducted on 1 and 4 August 2022 between Messers. Sebastian, the Executive Secretary, and the President, and between former SRA chairman Serafica, former SRA member Valderrama, Executive Secretary, and the President, respectively.

In both meetings, the matter of shortage of supply of sugar and the need to import were discussed and agreed upon by the participants. The Executive Secretary admitted in the Senate committee hearing that it was he who asked the Sugar Regulatory Administration to prepare the importation plan and the draft of Sugar Order No. 4. Per the testimony of Mr. Serafica as collaborated by Mr. Valderrama, the President instructed the latter to prepare the importation plan and the draft of the sugar order authorizing the importation of 300 thousand metric tons of sugar. As of this date, the President has not denied nor disputed the sworn statement of Mr. Serafica. Only the Executive Secretary has questioned the aforesaid allegation made under oath. He has not shown proof that his statement should prevail over the sworn testimonies of Mr. Serafica and Mr. Valderrama.

Unquestionably, Messers. Sebastian, Serafica, Valderrama, and Beltran, in issuing Sugar Order No. 4 were doing so during the meetings on 1 and 4 August, in obedience to the instruction of their superiors, and in the light of an escalating sugar crisis.

The memorandum of 5 August 2022 of Mr. Sebastian addressed to the President, stating the need — as well as the recommendation for the sugar importation by the SRA and asking for its guidance and approval for their recommendation with the draft SO4 attached thereof, coursed to the Executive Secretary and received by the latter, is unassailable documentary evidence that shows the good faith of the signatories of SO4.

The intentional failure by the Executive Secretary not to respond to the 5 August memorandum, his ignoring the two text follow-up messages of Mr. Sebastian as well his failure to inform the President of such communications by Mr. Sebastian is a gross dereliction of duty and a badge of fraud on the part of the recipient.

The exoneration of the Executive Secretary as being blameless in the sugar fiasco, the recommendation to file administrative and criminal charges against Messers Sebastian, Serafica, Valderrama, and Beltran by the majority members of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, as well as the preventive suspension of Mr. Sebastian and Mr. Beltran by the Executive Secretary, are a travesty of justice.

The four have been made scapegoats or fall guys to cover up for the gross incompetence of the two alter egos of the President.

When has an idea or a recommendation been an illegal act, or an irregularity, as irresponsibly and recklessly claimed by a voice emanating from the side of the Pasig river?

(To be continued)

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