The Office of the Ombudsman found probable cause to charge Alcala, three officials of Department of Agriculture-attached Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) and 20 garlic traders for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Boy Santos
Ex-DA chief Alcala charged over garlic imports
Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - April 25, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Former agriculture secretary Proceso Alcala and 23 others are facing graft charges over the illegal importation of garlic into the country.

The Office of the Ombudsman found probable cause to charge Alcala, three officials of Department of Agriculture-attached Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) and 20 garlic traders for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Apart from Alcala, the Ombudsman is charging BPI director Clarito Barron and division chiefs Merle Palacpac and Luben Marasigan with graft for the issuance of 8,810 import permits from 2010 to 2014.

The ombudsman said the import permits were approved despite an order suspending their issuance.

Of the permits, 5,022 were cornered by importers and affiliates of the Vendors Association of the Philippines Inc. (VIEVA) chaired by a certain Lilia Cruz, who was even designated as chair of the National Garlic Action Team (NGAT) in July 2013.

Cruz, who is also facing graft charges, acted as representative of the garlic importers by assisting them in the processing of applications and issuance of permits.

In August 2013, the NGAT issued a resolution recommending the non-issuance of garlic permits, finding that the supply was sufficient to last until the next harvest season of March 2014.

Three months later, however, the NGAT issued another resolution declaring an insufficiency in the country’s garlic supply and recommended the importation of 58,240 metric tons (MT) of garlic through the issuance of permits to be allocated to farmer cooperatives and legitimate garlic importers.

In its resolution last week, the ombudsman claimed that NGAT’s resolution allocating 70 percent of permits to farmer cooperatives was actually a scheme designed for Cruz to control garlic importation.

“It bears emphasis that after Cruz established VIEVA, she caused the affiliation of farmer cooperatives and associations under its umbrella on the pretext of helping them financially. By adopting the scheme, Cruz practically controlled a big chunk of the 100 percent of the permits for imported garlic,” the ombudsman said.

“The 30 percent of the permits supposedly allocated to legitimate garlic importers was given mostly to VIEVA and its affiliated importers. On the other hand, the 70 percent of permit allocation for the farmer cooperatives was mainly captured by Cruz through VIEVA-affiliated farmer groups,” it added.

Furthermore, the ombudsman said the scheme enabled VIEVA to monopolize supply, allowing it to dictate market prices where a spike in imported and locally produced garlic was felt during the first half of 2014.

The price of imported garlic soared, ranging from P260 to P400 per kilogram from its average price of P165 to P170 per kg.

“Documents revealed the close connection and relations between and among the VIEVA and VIEVA-affiliated importers. Aside from the interlocking incorporators, the importers have similar representatives, addresses, emails, phone numbers, company profiles, major suppliers, plant addresses, ports of registration, thus evidencing their common interest,” the ombudsman said.

The three BPI officials, meanwhile, were found guilty of grave misconduct and ordered dismissed from the service, with the accessory penalties of  perpetual disqualification from holding public office, forfeiture of retirement benefits, cancellation of civil service eligibility and bar from taking the civil service examinations. – With Michael Punongbayan

ILLEGAL IMPORTATION OF GARLIC PROCESO ALCALA
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