Unauthorized signing of sugar import sets ‘very bad precedent’ for gov’t

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano on Tuesday said the unauthorized signing of the order to import 300,000 metric tons of sugar sets “a very bad precedent” for the government.

“Ang inaalala ko, napakasamang precedent nito sa buong gobyerno. For me, sugar is such a big issue, pero napakalaking issue din y’ung pwedeng pumirma for the President,” Cayetano said during the hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on the sugar importation fiasco on August 23, 2022.

The Senator, who is Vice Chair of the Blue Ribbon Committee, grilled former Department of Agriculture (DA) Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian for signing Sugar Order No. 4 on top of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s name.

Cayetano said Sebastian, who resigned from his post on August 11, 2022 amid the ongoing investigation on the sugar importation order, “made it appear” that the importation of the 300,000 metric ton of sugar was a direct instruction of the President, who is concurrently the Agriculture Secretary.

“Kapag pumirma ka for the President, ibig sabihin ang Pangulo mismo ang nagsabi sa iyo na pwede ka pumirma para sa kanya. But if it is a delegated authority, you should have signed your name,” Cayetano said.

The Senator also criticized Sebastian’s signing of the order before getting the President’s approval.

“I’m still really baffled why someone would sign for the President na hindi naman klaro na pumapayag,” he said.

The Senator highlighted the fact that Sebastian, as Undersecretary at the time, was an ex-officio member and hence must sign as such. He said Sebastian should have specified that his authority was only delegated and that he was not signing for the President.

“Magkaiba po ‘yon,” Cayetano stressed.

The Senator said Sebastian and former Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) administrator Hermenegildo Serafica, who also resigned due to the investigation, should realize that the sugar importation issue is a big issue not just for big industries but for ordinary Filipinos.

“I hope USec Sebastian and Administrator Serafica realize hindi ito simpleng bagay lang. Hindi lang y’ung industriya ang nayugyog dito. Ang consumers natin, buong Pilipinas, hirap na hirap na sa COVID, hirap na hirap na sa pagtaas ng presyo, tapos nabulaga dito sa asukal,” he said.

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