Rodriguez to skip Senate probe on sugar order due to busy sched

Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 01 2022 01:26 AM | Updated as of Sep 01 2022 03:20 PM

Senate PRIB
Executive Sec. Victor Rodriguez faces members of the Blue Ribbon Committee Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022, to shed light on the events that transpired in connection with the controversial Sugar Order No. 4 issued by the Sugar Regulatory Administration authorizing the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar. The Blue Ribbon Committee, chaired by Sen. Francis Tolentino, conducted a hearing following the privilege speech of Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” F. Zubiri, entitled “Fiasco Behind Sugar Order No. 4” delivered on August 15, 2022. Voltaire F. Domingo, Senate PRIB

MANILA (UPDATE) — Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez will not be attending next week’s continuation of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing regarding the sugar importation issue covered by Sugar Order Number 4, panel chairman Senator Francis Tolentino said.

The Palace official conveyed the message to Tolentino Tuesday, hours after Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros pressed for Rodriguez’s attendance in their next hearing, due to many unanswered questions regarding his knowledge about SO-4.

“May sulat sa akin si Executive Secretary na sa susunod na mga pagdinig, ginagalang nya ang imbitasyon ng Senado, kaya nga sa first hearing andun na sya. Subalit dahil nga sa mga gawain, ay sinasabi nya na baka dito sa mga darating na hearing, ay hindi siya makadalo dahil itong mga State visits,” Tolentino said.

The Palace official has also stated in his letter that he already answered all the questions when he appeared before the panel last week, Tolentino added.

“Ang nakalagay dito (letter), and you can quote me. All told, the undersigned has already disclosed during the 23 August ‘22 hearing, all the relevant facts and details which I have personal knowledge of, related to the events that led to the unauthorized issuance of Sugar Order Number 4,” Tolentino said.

While the senator believes Rodriguez’s additional statements “might help” clarify issues surrounding the controversial import order, it is understandable that the official can't attend the succeeding hearings. 

“Alam naman natin lahat na marami siyang (Rodriguez) gawain ngayon dahil ang Presidente (Ferdinand Marcos Jr.) ay papunta sa Indonesia, pagkatapos po ay papunta sa Singapore, pagkatapos ay papunta sa United Nations. At kung tutuusin, siya lahat ang gumagawa nito. At baka pag hindi siya kasama sa United Nations, baka maging caretaker pa siya sa Office of the President ... But the invitation of the Senate still remains,” Tolentino said.

“We will be issuing a corresponding invitation when we conduct the next hearing, So, we will just await, he will just await for the notice. But we take into consideration all his activities which are relevant. Alam naman po natin na vital sya sa Office of the President, so, hintayin na lang po natin yun.

“In case na hindi na talaga makaka-attend, inferences will have to be made.”

Rodriguez appeared in the first committee hearing, but immediately left after reading his prepared statement.

For Tolentino, the committee’s investigation on sugar importation can already be concluded after their next week’s hearing, with or without Rodriguez’s testimonies.

Prolonging the investigation he said, may look already look like a “teleserye,” the senator said.

“Ang issue naman maliwanag, andun tayo sa Sugar Order Number 4. Dun lang tayo naka-focus. Yun ang privilege speech eh. So, yung lagpas sa privilege speech, hindi tayo papasok don,” Tolentino said.

As for Sugar Order Number 4, Tolentino believes that although it has been signed, further consultations are still needed to be observed.

But while the committee can already draft its initial report regarding S-O4, Tolentino did not discount the possibility of reopening their investigation, considering that they are proibing the issue with the Senate committee on agriculture and food chaired by Senator Cynthia Villar.

“Pipiiitin pa rin natin siyang imbestigahan. Subalit kung yung sinabi ni Senator Pimentel na hindi mate-terminate, we can have a partial conclusion to this. Baka meron na yung unang matapos. For instance, sino yung liable sa pagpapapirma dun sa S-O-4, ano yung magiging implication nito dahil may S-O-3. May mga partial recommendations na that can be released. Even while waiting for the testimony of another person that can be tied up to the rest,” Tolentino said.

As for former Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian and former SRA Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica’s claim that the President knows and even agrees to import sugar, Tolentino sees those claims as “perception.”

“The partial release should not affect the final release.. definitely, kahit na partial release of the report, we will determine who are the persons inferentially and by virtue of circumstances, will be liable,” he added.


As chairman of the panel, one thing that is clear for Tolentino is that the issuance of SO Number 4 happened “without a conclusive authority to back up its issuance.”

Even the contents of SO-4 is contrary to existing laws, particularly Executive Order Number 18 which created the Sugar Regulatory Authority (SRA) according to Tolentino.

The protocol on how SRA decides through its Board was not also followed, Tolentino said.

“The removal of the performance bond. Number 3, the provision which allows for an assignment from the original importer to an assignee which is very complicated and uncalled for,” the senator pointed out.

“We will allow a more transparent warehousing procedure. We will allow for a complete implementation of the SIDA Law.. that will allow our farmers to be a part of all of these,” he added.

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