Serafica cited for contempt, meted 15-day imprisonment

Former Sugar Regulatory Administration head Hermenegildo Serafica*

A Himamaylan Regional Trial Court judge on Monday, September 26, found former Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) head Hermenegildo Serafica guilty of indirect contempt of court for issuing a memorandum allowing the importation of sugar in violation of a writ of preliminary injunction.

Himamaylan RTC Branch 55 Judge Walter Zorilla sentenced Serafica to suffer the straight penalty of imprisonment for 15 days and to pay a fine of P30,000.

Zorilla also issued a warrant of arrest against Serafica for the service of the imprisonment imposed upon him.

The judge on March 2, 2022 issued a writ of preliminary injunction directing the SRA, its agents and representatives or persons acting in its behalf to cease and desist from implementing the sugar importation program embodied under Sugar Order No 3, Series of 2021-2022.

On May 4, 2022, Serafica issued SRA Memorandum Circular No. 11, Series of 2021-2022 allowing the importation of 200,000 MT of sugar in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, except in Region 6, the judge said.

The judge said Serafica’s justification that the preliminary injunction can be enforced only within the 6th Judicial Region where his court belongs is utterly misplaced.

Clearly there is absolutely nothing in the preliminary injunction that enjoined the implementation of Sugar Order No. 3 only in the 6th Judicial Region, he said.

Serafica willfully disregarded and manifestly disobeyed the writ of preliminary injunction when he issued MC 11, the judge said.

Serafica’s supposed reliance on the opinion of the Office of The Government Corporate Counsel sets a dangerous precedent that a government official can simply disregard a judiciary precept, on the pretext that he relied on the position of a statutory legal counsel, the judge said.

“There is also no way the court can uphold Serafica’s claim of good faith to vindicate his blatant disrespect of this court’s jurisdiction,” the judge added.

The judge also noted that Serafica is the only signatory on MC 11 without regard for the other members of the SRA board.

“Serafica in his persistence to implement Sugar Order No. 3 resorted to an extra judicial remedy by issuing MC 11,” the judge said

Serafica committed an act constituting indirect contempt that is criminal in nature, he added.

Enrique Tayo representing the Negros Occidental Federation of Farmers’ Associations had filed the civil case for preliminary injunction against the SRA represented by Serafica.

An intervener in the case was David Alba, former general manager of the Asociacion de Agricultores de La Carlota y Pontevedra.

Alba is now the acting SRA administrator.*

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