QUEZON CITY — Two officials of Super Five Cold Storage, one of the biggest cold storage facilities in the country, were cited in contempt by the House of Representatives' Committee on Agriculture and Food during Tuesday's hearing on the possible onion hoarding and price manipulation.
Committee Chairman Rep. Wilfrido Enverga said Michael Ang and George Ong, both Chinese nationals, will be detained in Congress for 10 days after being unable to justify their absences in previous hearings and submitting incomplete documents.
Lawmakers were irked by the two after they were asked how much was their company's income, but they couldn't answer.
They were also asked if they are in the trading business, and they initially responded in the negative. But after much prodding, at least one admitted to being part of a trading company.
Lawmakers also questioned why the two gave very limited data and information, even comparing the data they submitted with the data of other cold storage facilities.
Rep. Janette Garin said that Super Five may be hoarding onions, based on the data that the company stored over 500,000 sacks of onions from April to June 2022.
The number went down in the next months when onion prices started to go up.
The two appealed, but lawmakers still voted to cite them in contempt.
The committee members were also irritated due to the absence of some invited guests in the hearing.
The Committee issued show-cause orders for them to explain their absence.
Enverga questioned why many resource persons, mostly owners of cold storage facilities, have all submitted medical certificates.
Rep. Stella Quimbo added why all of a sudden many have gotten sick at the same time.
Among those who failed to attend was Lilia Cruz who had attended previous hearings. She is confined in a hospital. Eric Fabilona of Tian Long Cold Storage is in Hong Kong for an eye surgery. Marlene Lamata of Rivson, meanwhile, was also not feeling well.
The committee called the House physician Dr. Luis Bautista to visit two of those who failed to attend to verify their condition. The doctor returned hours later to say the two were indeed ill.
The committee also questioned other cold storage facilities, traders as well as government agencies why prices of onions skyrocketed last year.
The issue of importation also came up on why onions still arrived in the country last year when no permit was given.
The committee will meet next either in April or May for the next set of hearings on the issue. They asserted that even if prices of onion have stabilized, there is still a need to review what happened that led to the high prices of onions.