THE National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has recommended the filing of complaints against six individuals, including three government officials, over the alleged hoarding of onions, which is blamed for its soaring prices in 2022.

Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said in a press conference Monday, September 18, 2023, that the NBI made the recommendation following the conduct of a probe into the sale of onions last December when prices soared to as much as P587 per kilo as ordered by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Remulla, however, did not reveal the identities of the six individuals.

He said that aside from complaints in relation to hoarding and profiteering, there may also be violations that had led to price manipulation and economic sabotage.

“Kasama ang mga opisyal sa gobyerno rito sapagkat ang tingin namin sila po ay talagang lumalabas na may sala sa pagkakataong ito,” he said.

(The government officials are included here because we think they really appear to be at fault this time.)

“Ito ay simula pa lang. Marami pa hong kasong ipapafile at tuloy-tuloy ang imbestigasyon ng NBI,” he added.

(This is just the beginning. There are many more cases to be filed and the NBI's investigation is ongoing.)

Justice Undersecretary Geronimo Sy, head of the investigation task group on agri-smuggling, said that based on their investigation, the farmgate price or cost of production of onion during the said period was only at P8 to P15 per kilo.

“And this is now the basis for hoarding and profiteering. Kasi ang sabi daw wala na silang stocks, wala nang available, pero nung kinontrata at P500 plus, nagkakaroon ng stocks,” Sy said.

(Because they said they have no more stocks, nothing is available, but when they contracted for P500 plus, they had stocks.)

“At profiteering because ang farm gate prices ng onion, ‘yung cost of production is from P8 to P15 lang. Pero pag benta P537… So ‘yun ‘yung twin crimes na tinatawag sa hoarding and profiteering,” he added.

Sy said there was only one bidder who submitted three bids in which two were suspected to be falsified.

“Malinaw na malinaw na ‘yung dalawang supposedly other bidders hindi alam na sumama sila sa bid… and this was allowed... Not following the basic due diligence for involving such a huge sum of money. About P134 million ang involved,” he said.

Earlier, Marcos, the concurrent secretary of the Department of Agriculture, ordered the DOJ and NBI to conduct an investigation on the alleged smuggling of onions and other agricultural products, which stemmed from a letter of Marikina Representative Stella Quimbo that there is “substantial evidence” indicating the existence of an onion cartel in the country.

Quimbo’s memorandum is based on an inquiry conducted by the House of Representatives where it was found that “a group of companies was engaged in various activities in the supply chain such as farming, importation, local trading, warehousing, and logistics.” (SunStar Philippines)