Former Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala on Friday pleaded not guilty before the Sandiganbayan where he was charged with allowing garlic monopoly during his watch.
Alcala entered the plea during his arraignment at the anti-graft court’s Third Division.
His co-accused, Laila Matabang, also pleaded not guilty.
The arraignment of the other persons indicted in the case, namely former Bureau of Plant Industry director Clarito Barron, former National Plant Quarantine Services Division chief Luben Marasigan, and current NPQSD head Merle Palacpac, was postponed.
The court set the preliminary conference of Alcala’s case on July 5.
Private individuals, Lilia Matabang Cruz, Edmond Caguinguin, Rolan Galvez, Rochelle Diaz, Ma. Jackilou Ilagan, Jon Dino de Vera, Napoleon Baldueza, Jose Ollegue, Angelita Flores, Gaudioso Diato, Denia Matabang, Jose Angelo Jr., Raffy Torres, Mary Grace Sebastian, Renato Franciscno Jr., Rolando Manangan, Orestes Salon, Prudencio Ruedas, and Shiela Marie Cruz will also be arraigned on July 5.
The Ombudsman earlier filed graft charges against Alcala and 23 others for graft for allegedly manipulating the garlic supply that led to a surge in prices of garlic by controlling the importation permit.
It said 5,022 of the 8,810 import permits issued from 2010 to 2014 went to VIEVA l and approved by Alcala, Barron, Palacpac, and Marasigan despite the existing suspension in the garlic importation.
At the same time, from P165 to P170 per kilo, the price of imported garlic reached P260 to P400 per kilo from January to July 2014.
The prosecution also said that prices of local garlic rose to P250 to P450 per kilo from April to June 2014.