Leoncio Evasco Jr.'s exit from the NFA Council comes as the Philippines rushes to supply subsidized NFA rice.
The STAR/Michael Varcas, File
As he exits NFA Council, Evasco highlights clean public record
Audrey Morallo (philstar.com) - April 17, 2018 - 5:30pm

MANILA, Philippines — After his removal as chairman of the National Food Authority Council, Leoncio Evasco Jr. stressed that he has not been charged with graft or any irregularity while in government service and enumerated the body's accomplishments while he was at the helm.

Evasco, who also serves as the Cabinet secretary, said that he respects the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to remove him from the 18-member NFA Council amid reports on the tiff between him and Jason Aquino, the NFA administrator.

The Cabinet secretary stressed that he could not break the trust given to him by Duterte, who appointed him to head the council.

“In my more than 20 years in government public service, including three terms as mayor of the municipality of Maribojoc in Bohol, I have never been charged with malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance in the conduct of my work,” Evasco said in his statement.

He added that he had never been investigated by any office for any misdealing nor charged before the Office of the Ombudsman or Sandiganbayan, the country’s anti-graft court, for any corrupt act.

Harry Roque, the presidential spokesman, confirmed on Tuesday that Evasco had been removed from the NFA Council after reports that the Philippine leader made the decision during a meeting with government officials and industry stakeholders at the presidential palace.

Also removed from the council were the Development Bank of the Philippines while the Department of Social Welfare and Development was installed on the NFA’s policymaking body.

The NFA Council, which is separate from the NFA, is composed of officials from the central bank, the trade, finance and socioeconomic planning departments, among others.

Evasco removal raises corruption concerns

Sen. Paolo Benigno "Bam" Aquino IV rued the removal of Evasco, whom he described as a dedicated fighter against corruption in the importation and management or rice.

“Without the checks and balances that Secretary Evasco endeavored to implement, corrupt deals will continue unpunished,” he said in a statement.

Evasco said that his stint at the council resulted in policy guidelines that provided a more transparent, competitive, inclusive and accountable procurement system and distribution of NFA rice.

He also highlighted the importation of more than 805,000 metric tons of rice without adding to the NFA’s ballooning liabilities.

He said that decisions of the council under his leadership were collegial and based on reports and inputs from the NEDA, BSP, DTI, Landbank and DBP.

Evasco recognized the difficulties he faced in leading the council, even citing efforts by “some quarters” to discredit his name and that of the NFA Council.

“With the president’s decision to transfer the governance to the next council chair, I believe the NFA can now move forward towards ensuring that corrupt, exclusive and debt-ridden practices during the past administrations will not reign in the next transactions to pass,” he said.

Evasco’s exit came as the Philippines was facing a shortage of affordable rice for the country’s poor and his disagreement with Aquino over the country’s importation of the staple grain.

Evasco is in favor of letting private rice traders doing much of the purchase from foreign markets. Aquino meanwhile favors government-to-government procurement which he claims is faster but can add to the agency’s burgeoning debt.

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