PCA chief defies suspension order

Louise Maureen Simeon - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines -  The rift between the Philippine Coconut Authority and the Office of the Cabinet Secretary continues to worsen as PCA chief Avelino Andal refuses to accept a suspension order and claims that efforts are afoot to undermine the Duterte administration.

Andal accused Undersecretary Halmen Valdez of influencing Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco to issue various orders, not just to the PCA but to other agencies including the National Food Authority (NFA) and National Irrigation Administration (NIA).

“PCA is not the only issue here. There are moves to undermine the Duterte administration by the remaining yellow,” Andal said, referring to Valdez, an ally of former president Benigno Aquino III.

“There are suspicions, not just coming from me, that the Cabinet Secretary is being used by Valdez,” he added.

Andal maintained Valdez is instituting a grand plan similar to what happened to NIA chief Peter Laviña.

Laviña was forced to resign on alleged corruption issues, while NFA chief Jason Aquino is also under investigation.

“According to Valdez, I am the mastermind of corruption in PCA. She has all the guts to say those but she cannot even show any proof. If she wants to play dirty, then we’ll play dirty,” Andal said.

Valdez, on the other hand, said she is unaware of Andal’s accusations.

“I have no idea. The Cabinet Secretary is the national campaign manager and has been with the underground movement for a long time. Of course, he did his own screening and background investigation before appointing me,” Valdez said.

Andal is claiming Valdez is working for Sen. Francis Pangilinan, the president of the Liberal Party, since she was with the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agriculture Modernization (OPAFSAM).

“Senator Pangilinan left OPAFSAM in October 2015 when he filed his certificate of candidacy. I joined OPAFSAM in January 2016. I never had the chance to work with or for him. He (Pangilinan) doesn’t even know me before, just now because of the hearings,” Valdez said.

“One thing is for sure, the Cabinet Secretary is one of the trusted men of President Duterte. His loyalty to the President is beyond question. He works and decides in accordance with his conscience. I am in charge of doing impartial staff work to help him decide intelligently and fairly,” she added.

Andal has been issued a preventive suspension since Monday by Evasco over corruption allegations and is now under pressure to explain the administrator’s recent actions, including illegal collection of fees.

Despite the order and the ongoing investigation, Andal refused to honor the resolution calling for his suspension and maintained he will continue to serve as PCA chief.

“The resolution is not effective, it’s not valid and binding because there’s no board meeting that really happened to arrive at that decision,” Andal said.

“I have not received anything that I am no longer the PCA head. I’m still the administrator because that would be usurpation of authority,” he added.

Valdez urged Andal to just respect the decision of Evasco as he has his own thought process and set values.

“I’m not sure how Andal’s decision will play with the current situation,” Valdez said.

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