Oliver Bugarin 6 0 0 5 min to read

Blue Ribbon wants to file charges against SRA executives.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian, the former head of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA), Hermenegildo Serafica, SRA Board Member Roland Beltran, and SRA Board Member Aurelio Valderrama Jr. should all face administrative charges, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee recommended on Thursday.

According to the committee’s 75-page report, which Senator Francis Tolentino chaired, the officials violated the revised rules on administrative cases in the civil service by engaging in serious dishonesty, grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty, conduct detrimental to the best interests of the service, and gross insubordination.

The blue ribbon panel recommended that Sebastian, Serafica, Beltran, and Valderrama be charged with one count each of violating Sections 3a and 3e of Republic Act (RA) 3019, also known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Section 3a of RA 10845, or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016, and Section 3e of RA 10845, as well as one count each of usurping official duties.

An expert witness in the Blue Ribbon investigation, Executive Secretary Victor Rodriguez, commended the panelists for their prompt response to the improper issue of Sugar Order 4 (SO 4) and for advancing the filing of charges against those responsible.

“We appreciate the members of the Blue Ribbon Committee’s quick and thorough examination. You may be sure that the involved DA agencies will pay close attention to the committee’s recommendations.

The investigation was brought on by Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri’s use of a privilege speech to discuss SO 4, which Malacanang said was unconstitutional because President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was serving as the DA Secretary and head of the Sugar Board, had not given his approval.

Tolentino ended the proceedings on Tuesday after three sessions, as suggested by Zubiri.

At the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee’s hearing on Thursday about the allegedly costly laptops purchased by the Department of Education, the report was signed by 14 of the committee’s 17 members, with one dissenting view delivered by general counsel Gerard Mosquera.

Tolentino referred to the Department of Justice, the Commission on Audit, the Office of the Ombudsman, and the Bureau of Immigration, which was instructed to include the names of the accused in the immigration lookout bulletin, saying, “The committee secretary is directed to transmit the committee report to the appropriate government agencies for the filing of the proper cases relative to the committee report.”

To increase transparency and accountability in the process of granting import permits and other crucial issuances, the committee also recommended amending pertinent legislation, such as Executive Order (EO) 18, Republic Act (RA) 10659 or An Act Promoting and Supporting the Competitiveness of the Sugarcane Industry, and other related laws.

According to the committee report, the recommendation to amend EO 18 aims to increase the SRA Board to eight members, with the Secretary of the DA continuing to serve as ex-officio chairperson. It also adds sectors represented, such as additional board members to represent industrial and household consumers, workers in the sugar industry and the transportation sector, and other stakeholders in the success of the sugar industry.

Additionally, it shall forbid the transfer of the SRA Board’s reclassification authority.

The committee also intends to analyze and streamline the sugar importation strategy of the government with full funding under RA 10659.

A sugar importation strategy with the necessary precautions must be prepared by the SRA and submitted for higher authority review.

The committee report will be delivered in plenary on Monday, Tolentino informed Senate reporters.

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