PACC clears Agriculture Secretary Piñol from corruption allegations
Marje Pelayo • June 13, 2019 • 1708
MANILA, Philippines – The Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) announced on Wednesday (June 12) that it has cleared Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol from allegations of corruption in relation to the rice importation program of the National Food Authority (NFA).
In its Resolution 14 dated June 10, the Anti-Corruption Commission said it has “found no evidence pointing to unexplained wealth” after seven months of “thorough lifestyle check” on the Agriculture Secretary.
During the investigation that started in December 2018, Piñol agreed to open all his bank accounts and financial documents to scrutiny.
“Today, I feel relieved. In fact, I am overjoyed and overwhelmed by the heartwarming statement issued by the PACC citing my action as proof that President Duterte has people around him who believe in his advocacy for upright and transparent governance,” he said Wednesday.
“I cannot claim to be a perfect government worker. I could and may have made wrong decisions. People could even accuse me of incompetence but nobody could question my dedication to my job and my work ethics,” he added in his statement.
The investigation was conducted by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the Land Transportation Office (LTO), the Land Registration Authority (LRA), the Philippine National Police (PNP), Civil Security Group (CSG), and Firearms and Explosives Office (FEO).
The PACC, meanwhile, on its statement said that other officials of the Duterte administration are also undergoing probe by the agency after Secretary Piñol volunteered to undergo a full lifestyle check.
MANILA, Philippines – Bureau of Immigration (BI) Commissioner Jaime Morente gave the assurance that he and his personnel will cooperate with any impartial probe and lifestyle check conducted by authorities in relation to the so-called ‘pastillas’ scandal at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
In a statement on Sunday, Morente welcomed the graft and corruption investigation conducted separately by the Senate and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
He also expressed dismay over the allegations against some immigration officers stationed at the NAIA who were accused of receiving payoffs from syndicates of tour operators to facilitate the entry of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) workers and fugitives from China.
Immigration Officer Allison Chiong revealed the alleged scheme involving many of his colleagues in a Senate inquiry last week.
“As the Commissioner, I am very disappointed with the unauthorized activities of some personnel who continue to commit irregularities despite our determined efforts to get rid of the culture of corruption in the Bureau since 2016,” he said.
“On the other hand, I am certain that after this exposé, the intense public scrutiny and accompanying trial by the publicity that the Bureau has been subjected to will only ensure that we come out stronger as we weather yet another storm,” he added.
Morente said that all immigration officers accused of involvement in the scheme have been placed in the Administrative holding office without any privileges.
He assured that due process will be observed as they bring the accused to the court of justice.
“This incident and the corresponding consequences should serve as a strong warning and reminder to others not to engage in any unethical practices,” he said.
“As added measures to deter and expose any more illegal activities, we have included new protocols in the conduct of secondary inspections in open areas to improve transparency and installation of additional CCTV cameras in all areas of the primary inspectors,” he added.
He also urged members of the immigration bureau to remain professional and focused on performing their duties.
“As frontliners in border security, we must continue to remain unfazed by the hazards of the job, including the threat of the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus disease 2019) outbreak to the health of Immigration Officers as well as the cloud of doubt arising from this issue that has put the reputation and character of every Immigration Officer in question,” Morente said.
MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) maintains it is not stopping the issuance of permits to import rice.
“Hindi namin pinapa-stop (We are not stopping the importation.) We are implementing the law properly,” Secretary William Dar said.
Instead, the Department made the guidelines stricter which include inspection of storage houses.
On Tuesday (November 19), President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the suspension of rice importation because it is currently harvest time in the country.
According to the Federation of Free Farmers, stricter guidelines of rice importation is similar to stopping the process.
But they argue that the measure is just temporary while rice exporters are completing their requirements.
“In the meantime, na hindi sila maka-comply tigil muna ang export nila sa atin (In the meantime that they cannot comply, they need to stop exporting to us),” explained the farmers’ group’s Chairman Leonardo Montemayor.
The DA, meanwhile, will investigate farmers’ cooperatives and organizations who are using dummies in order to proceed with their importations.
“We will now look at three years of their business engagements kung may financial capability ba (if they have the financial capability),” Dar said.
“Mayroon ba silang warehouses? So lahat po ng pag-i-igting na iyon (Do they have warehouses? So we will intensify everything),” he added.
Dar said the President also wants to increase the buffer stocks of the National Food Authority (NFA) from 15 days to 30 days.
This would require the agency to purchase more palay from local farmers.
The NFA was also ordered to sell not lower than 20,000 sacks of rice per day.
Likewise, the unconditional cash transfer for farmers affected by the decreasing price of rice brought about by the rice tariffication law will be also be expanded to three years. – MNP (with details from Rey Pelayo)
MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday (November 19) said he has ordered Agriculture Sec. William Dar to suspend rice importation because it’s harvest time for local rice.
He clarified, however, that rice importation is still necessary to maintain enough volume of rice supply in the country.
“Ang problema, hindi ka kasi makaasa dito sa producers (The problem is you cannot depend on the producers),” the President said.
“Magsabi sila: ‘Makatanim kami. Ma-harvest lang namin, (They should tell us: “We’ll plant rice. Give us time to harvest) we can fill up two-thirds or one-third of the requirement.’ Correct. Iyan ang sabi mo, pero hindi mo alam ang sitwasyon ng mundo mo (That’s what you believe but you don’t really know what’s happening in your industry),” he added.
Even so, the President said he has no plans of suspending the implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law because he believes the law will solve problems in corruption in the country’s rice industry.
“What is the other remedy? Nothing. I cannot stop tariffication. Why? To erase corruption,” he said.
He also stressed that balancing rice supply through importation will prevent ‘food crisis.’
The President, nevertheless, assured that the government is willing to spend funds to support the needs of local farmers. MNP (with details from Rosalie Coz)
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