Resolution to import 300,000 MT of sugar 'illegal': Palace

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 11 2022 12:25 PM | Updated as of Aug 11 2022 09:45 PM

Heads may roll amid unauthorized signature of President Marcos in sugar order 

MANILA (UPDATED) — The resolution to import 300,000 metric tons of sugar signed on behalf of President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. was "illegal" as Marcos did not convene any meeting with the Sugar Regulatory Administration, Malacañang said on Thursday. 

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian signed the resolution on behalf of the President, who also sits as agriculture secretary, but was not authorized to do so. 

She added they were unaware the sugar order was uploaded on the SRA website.

 

Marcos rejects importing 300,000 MT of sugar 1
Marcos rejects importing 300,000 MT of sugar 2
Marcos rejects importing 300,000 MT of sugar 3
Marcos rejects importing 300,000 MT of sugar 4
Marcos rejects importing 300,000 MT of sugar 5

SO4 Second Sugar Import Program for CY 2021 2022

SO4 Second Sugar Import Program for CY 2021 2022

SO4 Second Sugar Import Program for CY 2021 2022

SO4 Second Sugar Import Program for CY 2021 2022

SO4 Second Sugar Import Program for CY 2021 2022

"The President did not authorize the importation," Cruz-Angeles told reporters in a Palace briefing. 

"Importations are a sensitive matter, particularly agricultural importations. Sugar is one such importation which we take great care with. It is a balancing act," the Palace official added. 

When clarified whether the resolution was only an importation plan, Cruz-Angeles answered in the affirmative. Marcos is also against the importation of sugar as the country only imported last May, calling the need to import sugar as a "balancing act." 

"It was a directive actually. It was verbally issued so that the President can make a determination later on whether or not the importation is actually warranted," she said. 

INVESTIGATION

Investigation is ongoing to determine whether the resolution was approved with "malice or negligence." Cruz-Angeles assured the key officials involved of due process. 

Board members must meet in order to issue a resolution but even then, the meeting was still not authorized. She noted, "only the President as the chairman can call for such a meeting." 

"An investigation is ongoing to determine whether any acts that will cause the President to lose trust and confidence in his officials can be found, or if there is malice or negligence involved," she said. 

"In such a case, if such findings are made then the only determination left will be how many heads are going to roll."

Authorities are still looking into whether the undersigned officials will be issued a preventive suspension order pending the result of the probe, she said. 

Photo from the Office of the President
Photo from the Office of the President

Meanwhile, Cruz-Angeles confirmed that Sebastian met Marcos during the event with the Department of Trade and Industry on Wednesday. 

She said that while the agriculture official was able to explain primarily to Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez on the matter during that time, he would still need to answer to the accusations formally. 

"With an investigation, he has to formally answer," she said. 

Senator Imee Marcos, the President's sister, said it seemed that the developments prove that there might be agriculture syndicates in the agency. 

The lawmaker said a reshuffling of the DA's highest officials is "urgent" because of what happened.

"The unauthorized and fraudulent use of the Office of the President to justify the importation of sugar is ultimate proof that thick-faced agricultural smugglers are lording it over at the Department of Agriculture," she said. 

"An immediate reshuffle of the DA’s highest officials is urgent to dismantle criminal syndicates within the government."

The SRA’s Sugar Order No. 4, released Wednesday, showed Marcos’ signature authorizing the importation of not more than 300,000 metric tons of sugar to "address the current sugar situation and its increasing prices." 

Cruz-Angeles, however, minutes after the resolution was released, denied Marcos signed the document.

This comes as the price of refined sugar reached over P100 per kilo in some supermarkets, while washed sugar costs around P60/kg to P70/kg amid supply constraints.

More details to follow. 

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