The United Sugar Producers Federation (UNIFED) is planning to ask courts to cite Agriculture Secretary William Dar and Sugar Regulatory Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica for contempt after both gave the go-ahead to implement Sugar Order No. 3 despite a pending case against it.
UNIFED President Manuel Lamata said in a press statement that they will ask the courts to issue immediate warrants of arrest against the two officials for “disrespecting the powers of the courts and bypassing the rights of sugar stakeholders who sought a status quo on SO 3.”
“UNIFED is not against importation as it is a need, but is against the exclusivity to industrial users, which has never happened in the history of the sugar industry”, Lamata said.
In a memorandum circular released May 2, SRA said they are now processing applications from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao traders, with the exception of Region 6 to import 200,000 metric tons of standard grade refined sugar and bottler’s grade refined sugar as part of their sugar import program under SO 3.
The exception of Region 6 stems from the fact that we successfully filed a Temporary Restraining Order against SO 3 and got a Writ of Preliminary Injunction which in effect puts everything in status quo until resolved by the courts, Lamata said.
The DA told the national media that they sought legal opinions on whether SO 3 can be implemented elsewhere in the country except in Negros Occidental where the order is under litigation.
“This sheer defiance of the courts’ orders from Dar and Serafica in order to cater industrial users, particularly the beverages companies must be stopped, investigated and if warranted, be prosecuted,” Lamata said.
UNIFED also said that they will “file corresponding charges against all traders who will participate in this importation program for making a mockery of the law.”
“It is very clear that someone is out to make money in this exercise knowing that they are on their way out at the expense of the sugar industry,” Lamata also said, expecting that with this recent memorandum, sugar prices will be once again affected.
Earlier, UNIFED accused SRA of making a “midnight deal” with industrial users after the proposed SO 4 draft was leaked to the public. Due to public outcry, the SO 4 which provides the importation of 350,000 metric tons of sugar, the bulk of which is specified as refined and bottlers’ grade, was withdrawn.
“Now they are at it again but we will not take this sitting down. We will haul them back to the courts and we hope this time, they will serve their last few weeks in office inside the jail,” Lamata said.*