Wimpy adventure

The importation scandal thus stemmed from the vast powers Rodriguez bestowed Sebastian

The straw that broke the camel’s back that led to the “demotion” of former Executive Secretary Victor Rodriguez to Chief of Staff was his propensity to cower behind the back of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos.

During the Senate hearing on the unauthorized sugar importation last week, Rodriguez brought with him a notarized letter that stated it was the PBBM who doesn’t want him to appear before the Senate inquiry and that he has to seek permission from the Chief Executive to do so after he was subpoenaed by the Senate Blue Committee.

Rodriguez in effect, wanted to use PBBM as his shield against lawmakers probing the sugar fiasco.

In bringing the letter to the Senate, Rodriguez indirectly declared it is PBBM who is hiding something about the botched sugar importation.

Alas, nobody is willing to buy his line. Not even opposition solon Senator Risa Hontiveros who said she believes “the buck would have to stop” with Rodriguez, as she stressed four former officials of the Sugar Regulatory Authority who signed Sugar Order 4 were only “fall guys.”

The Senate Blue Ribbon panel recommended the filing of criminal and administrative charges against suspended Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian, former SRA chief Hermegenildo Serafica, and former Sugar Board members Roland Beltran and Aurelio Gerardo Valderrama Jr. in connection with the signing of Sugar Order 4, giving the go-signal for the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar, but which didn’t have Marcos’ approval as the concurrent Agriculture Secretary.

Sugar maneuver

The importation scandal thus stemmed from the vast powers Rodriguez bestowed Sebastian. In a memorandum, Daily Tribune obtained entitled “Designation as Undersecretary for Operations of the Department of Agriculture,” dated 15 July 2022, Rodriguez gave Sebastian the authority to sign contracts for DA and act as head of the agency’s procuring entity.

Provision B of the said memorandum granted Sebastian additional authorities and functions, including the authority to “sign contracts, memoranda of agreement, administrative issuances, instruments and administrative and financial documents necessary to carry out department objectives, functions, plans, programs, and projects, for the efficient and effective operations of the DA.”

He was also given the power to sit as ex-officio chairman or member of committees, councils, boards, and bodies where Marcos as DA chief is a member, or designate other DA officials to these bodies.

Provision F of the same memorandum even gave Sebastian the power to impose disciplinary actions on all employees and officers under the Office of the Secretary including their investigation.

Sebastian was also authorized by Rodriguez to act “as the designated Head of the Procuring Entity, and reconstitute the Bids and Awards Committee,” as well as appoint or reassign DA employees, except those who should be appointed by the President.

Stated in the memo was Sebastian’s designation as DA Undersecretary for Operations “effective immediately until a replacement is appointed or until otherwise directed” by the Executive Secretary’s office adding that all of Sebastian’s actions “shall be considered valid unless subsequently disapproved or reprobated by the President.”

Additionally, Rodriguez, as Press Secretary Trixie Angeles averred, gave Sebastian verbal instruction to draft an importation plan.

Having completed the plan, Sebastian claimed he sent Rodriguez text messages informing him the sugar importation plan was ready.

Having received no response, Sebastian said he decided to push through with the sugar importation order as he was authorized to do anyway, based on the 15 July memo.

Based on the July memorandum, the President could disapprove or reprobate Sebastian’s actions which the Chief Executive did revoke.

Apparently, somebody went scurrying off after getting caught in flagrante delicto and it was not PBBM.

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