NFA chief blasts extortion claim: All lies

by Kathlyn dela Cruz,

Posted at Aug 15 2014 09:34 PM | Updated as of Aug 16 2014 05:34 AM

Juan says he's ready to face investigation

MANILA - National Food Authority (NFA) administrator Arthur Juan vehemently denied rice trader Jojo Soliman's allegations of extortion against him, saying these were pure lies.

"Lahat po iyan ay kasinungalingan," Juan said in an interview on ANC's "Top Story" on Friday.

Juan was accused by Soliman of extorting P15 million from him in exchange for the dropping of charges against him and the reopening of his warehouse, which was padlocked in July after his workers were allegedly caught mixing broken rice intended for animal feed with imported rice.

Juan said, "Wala po sa nature ko ang mag-extort ng pera dahil ako po ay hindi po nag-volunteer sa trabahong ito. Napili lang po ako."

He added that this was the first time someone has accused him of extortion. "Wala pa po akong naging kaso ever. Ngayon po ay senior citizen na po ako."

In his statement submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Soliman alleged that of the P15 million, P5 million was meant for the NFA chief himself while the remaining P10 million, as Juan allegedly told him, would be split between Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Presidential Adviser on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization Francis Pangilinan.

Soliman said the money meant for Juan was placed inside a Louis Vuitton sling bag and then left under the table at a barbecue and noodles restaurant in Makati City for pick-up.

He said he deposited P5 million each to two different bank accounts allegedly on Juan's instructions.

But Juan insisted that he does not own the bank accounts nor know the owners of the accounts where the extortion money was allegedly deposited.

"Hindi po ako tumanggap ng pera sa kanya at saka hindi po ako nag-extort," he said, adding that he only met Soliman once when he inspected the rice trader's warehouse in Malolos, Bulacan.

The NFA chief earlier tendered his resignation amid the extortion allegations out of delicadeza.

"Wala po akong intensyon na manatili sa pwesto kung hindi na po ako kailangan dito," he said.

But Pangilinan rejected his resignation, saying he still has full trust and confidence in Juan.

Juan said he will fully cooperate and submit himself for investigation. He said he may also sue Soliman for perjury.

But for now, he will continue to serve the country as the administrator of the NFA, he said.

"Ako po, nanatili lang na magsilbi para sa taumbayan
na kailangang-kailangan po ng NFA rice. Yun lang po ang aking hangarin, ang makapag-serve po sa taumbayan," Juan said.