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Saturday, April 13, 2024

DA chief tells 2 NFA execs implicated in rice fiasco to go on leave

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Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. asked two officials implicated in the rice fiasco at the National Food Authority to temporarily step down while the investigation is still ongoing.

“Of course, we have to presume innocence. We have to be impartial.

Until proven guilty, everyone is innocent. But this internal investigation is very important so let’s give it time. This internal investigation is just a first step,” he said.

“Whoever is involved here must give the investigating party a chance to do their work properly, without any hindrance. So the best thing to do, and I strongly advise them, is to take a leave of absence, at least the heads – the accused and the accuser,” Tiu Laurel added.

An NFA official earlier accused several agency executives of improperly disposing of rice buffer stocks without going through a bidding process, and at a price allegedly disadvantageous to the government.

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Tiu Laurel issued the order on Friday for NFA Administrator Roderico Bioco and Assistant Administrator for Operations Lemuel Pagayunan to take a leave of absence to ensure a fair and impartial probe, DA spokesperson Assistant Secretary Arnel de Mesa said.

The NFA executives denied any wrongdoing, saying the sale followed established procedures.

“The current NFA management was able to responsibly dispose of its rice stocks to government accounts by stretching to maximum shelf-life, minimizing the sale of residual volume to other accounts by implementing stricter guidelines and safeguards,” the NFA said in a statement.

The questionable transaction allegedly involved more than P93.7 million worth of NFA rice, sold to select millers and traders at the price of P25 per kilogram.

“The DA secretary is just being fair,” De Mesa said.

“He wants both Administrator Bioco and Assistant Administrator for Operations Lemuel Pagayunan to take a leave of absence first to make the investigation more fair,” he added.

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