Ex-DA chief Alcala, traders face graft over garlic monopoly

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 26 2019 11:53 AM | Updated as of Mar 26 2019 12:31 PM

MANILA - The Office of the Ombudsman has filed a graft case against former Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala over the monopolization of garlic supply, which caused prices to soar in 2014.

Also charged were then Bureau of Plant Industry director Clarito Barron, division chiefs Luben Marasigan and Merle Palacpac and private trader Lilia Cruz also known as Lea Cruz, chair and controlling owner of Vegetable Importers, Exporters, Vendors Association of the Philippines (VIEVA).

In the information filed on March 15, the Ombudsman said Alcala created the National Garlic Action Team which enabled Cruz to “have access to vital information and resulted to her group securing most of the import permits” and consequently allowing her to “dictate the prices of garlic in the market”.

NGAT had found it necessary to allow the importation of 58,240 metric tons of garlic or the issuance of 1,165 import permits to satisfy the market requirement from November 2013 to March 2014, which was approved by Alcala and was referred to Baron for action.

The Ombudsman said that of 8,810 import permits issued by the DA, 5,022 were secured by VIEVA and its affiliate importers causing the surge of the price of imported garlic to P260 to P400 per kilogram from January to July 2014 from its previous price of P165 to P170 from 2010 to 2013.

The Ombudsman added that the price of native garlic also increased to P250 to P450 per kilogram from April to June 2014.

The permits were supposedly issued at the time that the garlic importation ban was still in effect from July 2012 to October 2013.

Members of the VIEVA board of directors, namely Edmond Caguinguin, Rolan Galvez, Rochelle Diaz, Ma. Jackilou Ilagan, Jon Dino de Vera, Napoleon Baldueza, Jose Ollegue, Laila Matabang, Angelita Flores, Gaudioso Diato, Denia Matabang, Jose Angulo Jr., Raffy Torres, Mary Grace Sebastian and Renato Francisco Jr. were likewise charged, as well as officials of agricultural cooperatives, namely Rolando Manangan, Orestes Salon, Prudencio Ruedas, and Shiela Marry dela Cruz.

The Ombudsman said the respondents all acted with “manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence” when unwarranted benefits were given to various garlic traders. 

The Ombudsman recommended to the Sandiganbayan that the bail bonds for the respondents be set at P30,000 each.