DA official faces graft complaint over 'smuggled' sugar

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 05 2023 10:38 PM

MANILA - Department of Agriculture Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban faces a graft complaint filed Monday by officials of two organizations before the Office of the Ombudsman over the importation of 440,000 metric tons of sugar that arrived in the country last February.

In the complaint filed by National Congress of Unions in the Sugar Industry Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Council (NACUSIP-ARB) and Alternatiba ng Masa, it was noted that the imported sugar arrived on February 9, 2023 at the Batangas Port.

The complaint was signed by Alternatiba general secretary Elijah San Fernando and NACUSIP-ARB chairperson Elisama Gregorio.

The complainants stressed Sugar Order No. 6 (SO6) which allowed the importation of the 440,000 metric tons of sugar was only signed on February 15, 2023.

“This means that there was no Sugar Order to warrant the importation of All Asian Countertrade, Inc., of sugar that arrived in the Batangas Port on 9 February 2023, making the imported sugar a smuggled agricultural product,” the complainants said.

The importation made the headlines and became the subject of a Senate investigation as SO6 was not signed by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as chairman of the Sugar Regulatory Administration. 

The complainants also stressed that Panganiban gave favors to All Asian when he issued a memorandum containing the 440,000 metric tons in SO6 after the arrival of the shipment on February 9.

“This clearly implicates respondent Panganiban in smuggling,” the complainants said.

The complainants also noted that Panganiban, as senior underscretary of the DA is not a member of the SRA. 

“There is no doubt from the foregoing that respondent Panganiban arrogated unto himself the powers of Sugar Regulatory Administration, a clear usurpation of the SRA’s mandate and a clear violation of Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code,” the complainants said.

Panganiban has yet to comment on the complaint.