NFA's Jason Aquino should face charges for rice mess: Roque

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 25 2018 09:29 AM | Updated as of Sep 25 2018 10:07 AM

Use of NFA funds to pay maturing loans 'technical malversation' - Roque

MANILA - National Food Authority Administrator Jason Aquino should face charges over the NFA rice shortage, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said Tuesday, adding that he is willing to file the charges if no one else would.

"The rice shortage, the rice problem, the high prices of rice is self-inflicted damage by the NFA and the [Commission on Audit] says so. So why shouldn’t they be held liable," Roque told ANC's Headstart, adding that Aquino is "part of the problem."

Under Aquino, the NFA drew flak for the low supply of the state-subsidized grain in local markets and the weevil infestation of hundreds of thousands of sacks of rice.

The Commission on Audit earlier questioned why the National Food Authority used its P5.1 billion subsidy from the national government to pay for maturing loans instead of allocating the funds for the food security program of the agency.

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"He made a mess out of the rice market, he contributed to the problem of inflation. He should be held liable. If no one else files, I will," Roque said when asked if he will recommend the filing of charges against the NFA Chief.

"It doesn’t matter who he is. The fact is he played around with the commodity that is closest to our stomach. You don’t do that and he made such a big problem for the President," he added.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said Aquino, a former soldier, wants to be relieved from his post because "he's tired and cannot cope with laro (workings) diyan sa inside."

Roque said he does not know if it is true that Aquino was recommended to the position by Special Assistant to the President Christopher "Bong" Go, but said he himself has told Duterte that "part of the problem is Jason Aquino."

He said Aquino's decision to use funds intended to buy buffer stock for any other purpose, as indicated in the COA report, is "technical malversation."    

"I’ve also said there were rumors of corruption in NFA, rumors that are not difficult to believe because whenever you have a monopoly to import any commodity, there’s bound to be corruption," he said.

The President, however, "refused to believe" because Aquino, a former mutineer, "was willing to risk his life."

Army chief Lt. Gen. Rolando Bautista is being eyed to take over the administration post in mid-October when he retires. Roque said the President prefers military men in this post because they obey orders quickly.