“There was a call for a probe and whoever was accountable and responsible for that ‘illegal’ importation should be made to pay, and that ‘order’ of Executive Secretary Rodriguez to Sebastian should be investigated”
The botched importation of 300,000 metric tons of refined and raw brown sugar is really a mess.
While some call it an attempt to pull one over President Marcos, others simply call it a case of misunderstanding of what should be done by those authorized to carry out an “importation plan” because of an apparent shortage of sugar.
I have read newspaper reports about the reported “mess.” But to understand what really happened, let’s take the case step by step, my gulay!
Malacanang authorized Undersecretary for Operations Leocadio Sebastian to “sign contracts, memorandum of agreement” among others, “necessary to effectively achieve the objective, plans and projects” of the Department of Agriculture which included the controversial decision to import sugar amid a looming sugar shortage.
The authorization was contained in a memorandum dated July 15, 2022 issued by Executive Secretary Victor Rodriguez.
Sebastian, who acts on behalf of the President as concurrent DA Secretary and Chairman of the Sugar Regulatory Administration, thus subsequently took “full responsibility as chairman of the SRA and issued Administrative Order 4 authorizing the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar.
Santa Banana, when the sugar mess broke out in the media, which Malacanang first called illegal and unauthorized, all hell broke loose.
There was a call for a probe and whoever was accountable and responsible for that “illegal” importation should be made to pay, and that “order” of Executive Secretary Rodriguez to Sebastian should be investigated.
This prompted Sebastian to resign as Undersecretary for Operations and said he will take full responsibility for the allegedly illegal importation.
The probe, which the President said he would not interfere in, raises questions like: Was the action taken by Sebastian illegal ?
Was it an attempt to pull one over the President? Or was it just a case of lack of understanding of what the President really wanted as contained in that order of ES Rodriguez to Sebastian?
Note that in the order of ES Rodriguez to Sebastian there was a need for an import plan.
It must be recalled that while Sebastian was authorized to sit as chairman of SRA on behalf of the President, what is really the crux of the problem is whether or not an importation plan was first made by Sebastian, an SRA board member.
This, to me, is the crux of the problem, since the style of BBM is systematic.
He must know every step of a decision made by the sitting chairman on behalf of the President.
Did Sebastain have any importation plan ?
If not, the Memorandum Order of ES Rodriguez was in effect illegal.
As it turned out, Santa Banana, there was no importation plan.
An importation plan becomes necessary following the harvest season for sugar producers and the onset of the milling season for sugar.
To import sugar this time would be prejudicial to the sugar producers and millers, especially so because of an early import of sugar had not fully arrived.
Thus, to me, it is more than a misunderstanding on the part of Sebastian, but the lack of sufficient knowledge on the importance of an importation plan, to which he must take full responsibility and accountability.
I also believe that the other members of the SRA should be held accountable and responsible, in which case they should be investigated.
To me, this case of the sugar importation controversy is a good lesson for all bureaucrats in the Marcos administration to realize that they must be aware of their responsibility and accountability, and not just follow orders like robots.
President Marcos, it seems, is not content with bureaucrats in his administration taking for granted, Santa Banana, memorandum orders or Administrative Orders. An importation plan for sugar is the crucial part of any import.
As attested by Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles, there was some confusion resulting in a misunderstanding of Memorandum Order 4 ordered by the Executive Secretary on the creation of an “importation plan.”
And, my gulay, as the Press Secretary asserted, an importation plan was needed to decide on an importation of sugar from abroad.
Thus, the confusion arose when the SRA ordered the importation without considering whether or not it was time to import sugar.
There is also a suggestion that perhaps the apparent shortage of sugar was due to hoarding by middlemen.
These facts further resulted in the misunderstanding by the SRA.
Now, Santa Banana, whether or not this misunderstanding by the SRA constituted an illegal act must now be determined. No wonder Sebastian told the House in a probe that he was innocent.
After the resignation of Sebastian there was also the resignation of no less than the chief administrator of SRA and another board member .
That the President has accepted all the resignations confirms the fact that, more than just the confusion and misunderstanding of the importation plan, the importation of the 300,000 metric tons of sugar was illegal.
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Another government agency that has been making headlines recently is the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) which procured “pricey and antiquated” laptops for teachers.
Santa Banana, the fact that those laptops reportedly cost more than P50,000 a piece when you can buy laptops in the market for only P15,000 was bad enough, but when it’s also antiquated, it’s adding insult to injury.
Some geniuses in the PS-DBM must think that they would get away with this kind of corruption.
And this was not the first time that the Commission on Audit flagged the PS-DBM for another anomaly.
Recall that the PS-DBM was also flagged at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic for procuring overpriced PPEs or Personal Protection Equipment designed for health workers.
My gulay, that’s already strike two.
President Marcos, who must show to the people that he has zero tolerance for graft and corruption, must have the PS-DBM thoroughly investigated and have heads roll if need be.
The Vice President and concurrent Education Secretary would do no less than to have that agency investigated and drop the axe.
Whoever are responsible for all the anomalies must be jailed and the keys thrown in the Pasig River.
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When President Marcos talked about the need to rightsize the bureaucracy and save funds for the government, I proposed the abolition of three agencies — the Presidential Commission of Good Government (PCGG), the Office of Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) and the Commission on Climate Change (CCC).
PCGG, the first government agency created by then President Cory Aquino, has served its purpose, considering that there are already government bodies that will go after hidden and ill-gotten wealth.
Considering that the PCGG has lost 90 percent of its cases filed against the Marcos family, it will do well for President Marcos to make the Justice Department handle those cases. I can understand the hesitancy of BBM to have the PCGG abolished since it could be mistaken as self-serving, but the PCGG commissioners have become useless.
In fact, if an investigation were to be made to try to find out what the PCGG commissioners are doing now, it will be found out that they are earning double compensation, one as PCGG commissioners, another as directors of the remaining sequestered corporations.
My gulay, the PCGG commissioners never had it so good!
Another government agency that must be abolished is the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel.
My gulay, if an investigation were to be made on the OGCC, it will find a lot of corruption where the lawyers of that agency get allowances and many other perks and benefits due to lawyers representing Government-Owned-and-Controlled Corporations, in violation of the Commission on Audit prohibition that government lawyers are prohibited from receiving allowance and other benefits and perks more than one-half of their annual salaries.
The abolition of the OGCC will not only stop anomalies in that agency but save a lot of money for government use.
Another government commission that has to be abolished is the Commission on Climate Change where its chairman has a Cabinet position and its board members are considered undersecretaries and getting salaries as such.
And what has the CCC done? Nothing, absolutely nothing, but attend Climate Change meetings in Europe.
Santa Banana, the CCC job can be done by another body, like the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Mister President, just abolish the CCC and rightsize the bureaucracy.
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