BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN
A regional trial court judge in Negros Occidental has initiated indirect contempt proceedings against Sugar Regulatory Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica for issuing a memorandum allowing the implementation of Sugar Order No. 3 despite an earlier injunction against it, while a case is pending in court.
Sugar Order Number 3, issued on February 4 this year, allows the importation of 200,000 metric tons of sugar, was strongly opposed by the different associations of sugar planters’ groups and farmers.
Himamaylan RTC Judge Walter Zorilla ordered Serafica to explain why he should not be cited in contempt of court, within 15 days, for failing to abide with injunction order issued by the court on May 4, in an answer to manifestation of intervenors Enrique Tayo, representing the Negros Occidental Federation of Small Farmers Association, and David John Thaddeus Alba, of Association De Agricoltores de La Carlota Y Pontevedra Inc. and La Carlota Mill District Multi-Purpose Cooperative.
During the pre-trial conference, respondent SRA is open to the possibility of an amicable settlement with petitioner Tayo and petitioner-in-intervenor Alba, and is also receptive to alternative modes of dispute resolution under fair and reasonable terms.
SRA, likewise, manifests that if necessary, it will avail itself of discovery procedures, or referral to the commissioners, court records show.
The hearing of the indirect contempt proceedings has been set on August 24.
In a statement, Alba said they are thankful to the court for hearing the plea of 13,000 sugar farmer members who have been greatly affected by the orders issued by Serafica, without proper consultation.
He added that the memorandum of Serafica to continue implementing SO 3 outside of Region 6, despite their pending petition against it, is a slap to our courts of law.
His actions simply prove our point that he is bent to accommodate the industrial users, particularly the bottling industries, to the detriment of the entire sugar industry and even the general public, Alba further said.
We continue to reiterate our call, that while we are not against sugar importation per se, this decision must be done with proper consultation, and must ensure that it will not only serve and benefit the few, but the entire country, he stressed.*