Ex-Agriculture Secretary Alcala,  23 others to face trial over garlic scam

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DAVAO CITY,  Philippines —Former Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala  and 23 others are facing corruption charges  for their alleged  involvement in the  issuances of  import permits for garlics

This, after the Office of the Ombudsman found probable cause to charge Alcala, two Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) to include and garlic traders.

  • Director Clarito Barron, BPI, garlic trade bureau director
  • Division Chiefs Merle Palacpac and;
  • Luben Marasigan;

Also included in the charge sheets are garlic traders:

Lilia “Lea” Cruz; Edmond Caguinguin, Rolan Galvez, Rochelle Diaz, Ma. Jackilou Ilagan, Jon Dino De Vera, Napoleon Baldueza, Jose Ollegue, Laila Matabang, Angelita Flores, Gaudioso Diato, Denia Matabang, Jose Angulo, Jr., Raffy Torres, Mary Grace Sebastian, Renato Francisco, Rolando Manangan, Orestes Salon, Prudencio Ruedas and Shiela Marry Dela Cruz.

The investigation uncovered that from 2010 to 2014, a total of 8,810 import permits (IPs) were issued and approved by respondents Alcala, Barron, Palacpac and Marasigan.  Out of this number, 5,022 IPs were cornered by importers and affiliates of the Vendors Association of the Philippines, Inc. (VIEVA) chaired by respondent Lilia Cruz.

Records show that on 24 July 2013, Alcala designated Cruz as chairperson of the National Garlic Action Team (NGAT) serving as the DA’s consultative body on policies and concerns of the garlic production and supply program.   At the same time, Cruz acted as representative of the garlic importers, assisting them in the processing of applications and issuance of IPs.

 Investigators also found that Alcala, et al. approved the IPs despite an existing order suspending the issuance of IPs.

On 22 August 2013, the NGAT issued Resolution No. 1 Series of 2013 recommending the non-issuance of garlic IPs finding that the supply was sufficient to last until the next harvest season of March 2014.    However, on 05 November 2013, the NGAT issued Resolution No. 2 Series of 2013, declaring an insufficiency in the country’s garlic supply as of 25 October 2013 and recommended the importation of 58,240 metric tons of garlic through the issuance of IPs  to be allocated to farmer cooperatives (70%) and legitimate garlic importers (30%).

According to the Ombudsman Resolution of 20 April 2018, “NGAT’s resolution that 70% of the IPs would be allocated to farmer cooperatives was actually a scheme designated for Cruz to control the garlic importation.  It bears emphasis that after Cruz established VIEVA, she caused the affiliation of farmer cooperatives and associations under its umbrella on the pretext of helping them financially.  By adopting the scheme, Cruz practically controlled a big chunk of the 100% of the IPs for imported garlic.  The 30% of the IPs supposedly allocated to legitimate garlic importers was given mostly to VIEVA and its affiliated importers.  On the other hand, the 70% of IP allocation for the farmer cooperatives was mainly captured by Cruz through VIEVA-affiliated farmer groups.”

       The Resolution added that “the scheme enabled VIEVA to monopolize the garlic supply, allowing it to dictate its market prices.  [From] January to July 2014, the extraordinary and alarming spike in the prices of imported and locally produced (native) garlic was strongly felt by the public especially in the month of June 2014.  The price of imported garlic soared, ranging from P260.00 to P400.00 per kg. from its average price of P165.00-P170.00 per kg. in calendar year 2010-2013; while the price of native garlic varied from P250.00- P400.00 per kg. in April to June 2014.”

         Documents from the National Bureau of Investigation, Securities and Exchange Commission, Cooperative Development Authority, Department of Trade and Industry, and National Statistics Office revealed the close connection and relations between and among the VIEVA and VIEVA-affiliated importers.  Aside from the interlocking incorporators, the importers have similar representatives, addresses, emails, phone numbers, company profiles, major suppliers, plant addresses, ports of registration, thus evidencing their common interest.

 In the related administrative case, Barron, Palacpac and Marasigan were found guilty of Grave Misconduct and ordered dismissed from the service, with the accessory penalties of  perpetual disqualification from holding public office, forfeiture of retirement benefits, cancellation of civil service eligibility, and bar from taking the civil service examinations.

“Public office is for the people’s benefit.  Therefore, it is but reasonable to expect that respondents perform the duties accorded them efficiently and honestly.  It is for this reason that this office is mandated by law to ensure that public office should deserve public trust and to hold erring officials and employees liable and impose appropriate penalty should they fail on this duty,” added the Ombudsman Resolution.-Editha Z. Caduaya/Newsline.Ph

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