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Malacañang decision on SO4 lauded

• GILBERT P. BAYORAN

Two planters federations praised Malacañang for absolving the officials involved in the issuance of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) Sugar Order No. 4, which authorized the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar last year.

In joint statement, Enrique Rojas, president of the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters (NFSP), and Danilo Abelita, president of the Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers (Panayfed), said that justice prevailed in the decision of the Office of the President, clearing former Agriculture and SRA officials of wrongdoing in issuing the controversial sugar order.

“Justice is served by Malacañang’s recent decision, which upheld that there was no bad faith, malice, misconduct nor dishonesty committed by the four officials in the issuance of SO No. 4,” Rojas and Abelita said.

“We have supported the sugar order right from the start, and we are happy for Confed president Aurelio ‘Bodie’ Valderrama, Jr. that this decision eventually cleared his name of any wrongdoing,” they added.

Former Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) board member Aurelio Gerardo Valderrama described the dismissal of charges against him and his co respondents in the motu propio investigation on the SO4, series of 2022, as a “vindication.”

In August 9 last year, the Sugar Board issued SO4 authorizing the importation of 300,000 MT, with the Sugar Board then comprising Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian, then SRA Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica, Roland Beltran and Valderrama as board members.

Under the impression that he was authorized to sign the Sugar Order in behalf of Pres. Marcos by virtue of a memorandum issued by then Executive Secretary Victor Rodriguez, Sebastian signed the order in behalf of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. But when the President learned of the sugar order, he disapproved it, prompting SRA to withdraw the order.

Allegations of impropriety were hurled against the four officials, leading to a full-blown Senate Blue Ribbon Committee investigation and an independent investigation by the Office of the President.

The NFSP, Panayfed and Confed, which make up more than 50 percent of national sugar production, supported Valderrama amid all the allegations. The three federations issued public statements reiterating their belief in Valderrama’s good faith and honesty.

The Office of the President recently released the result of its investigation, duly approved and signed by the new Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

The respondents, who were investigated for alleged grave misconduct, gross dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest in the service relative to the issuance of SO4, were absolved of any liability as to the offenses charged, the decision stated.

Moreover, the decision dismissed the case filed against the four officials.*

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