Executive secretary not blameless, in Sugar Order 4 fiasco: Hontiveros

Senators Aquilino Pimentel III and Risa Hontiveros filed a “minority report” on the sugar importation fiasco on Tuesday, September 13.*

Executive Secretary Victor Rodriguez is not “blameless” in the recent Sugar Order No. 4 (SO4) importation fiasco, Senator Risa Hontiveros said Tuesday, September 13.

Hontiveros and Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, representing the Senate Minority Bloc, at a press conference released a report disagreeing with several findings of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on the controversial issuance of SO 4 granting the importation of 300,000 Mt.

The Blue Ribbon Committee recommended the filing of charges against Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian, former Sugar Regulatory Administration administrator Hermenegildo Serafica, and board members Roland Beltran and Aurelio Gerardo “Bodie” Valderrama Jr. for the issuance of SO4.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. recalled SO4 because Malacañang said it was signed by Sebastian without his authority. Marcos chairs the SRA board as concurrent agriculture secretary.

Hontiveros, in a statement furnished DIGICAST NEGROS, said she and Pimentel disagree with the report made by the Senate Majority bloc because it “failed to answer the real questions that will help address the sugar fiasco”.

“It was unfortunate that the Blue Ribbon report had failed or purposely refrained to discuss the part played by Executive Secretary Rodriguez in this unfortunate debacle”, she said.

“It was clear to us early on that all communications related to the issuance of S.O. No. 4 were timely and clearly communicated to the Executive Secretary. However, the Executive Secretary’s unilateral decision to sit on it contributed to the debacle,” Hontiveros said.

Hontiveros added that the recommendation to file criminal and administrative charges against the four seemed to be “disproportionately punitive”.

The recommendation to initiate charges against them are lacking factual and legal basis, she said.

“These are human beings, with careers, reputations and families,” Pimentel said, adding that their treatment “is undeserved, uncalled for, and unjustified”.

Hontiveros and Pimentel said the four were merely made scapegoats.

Hontiveros said that amidst this fiasco, consumers and workers in the sugar industry should not be caught in the cross-fire. Their welfare should always be the paramount priority, she said.

“The sugar shortage has very dangerous and real consequences for Filipino workers and Filipino consumers. It has to be addressed as soon as possible,” she said.*

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