Planters groups hail Palace decision on Sugar Order No. 4

Two planters federations praised Malacaňang for absolving the officials involved in the issuance of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) Sugar Order No. 4, which authorized the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar last year.

Enrique Rojas, president of the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters (NFSP), and Danilo Abelita, president of the Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers (Panayfed), said that justice prevailed in the decision of the Office of the President clearing former Agriculture and SRA officials of wrongdoing in issuing the controversial sugar order.

“Justice is served by Malacaňang’s recent decision, which upheld that there was no bad faith, malice, misconduct nor dishonesty committed by the four officials in the issuance of Sugar Order No. 4. We have supported the sugar order right from the start, and we are happy for Confed president Aurelio ‘Bodie’ Valderrama, Jr. that this decision eventually cleared his name of any wrongdoing,” Rojas and Abelita said in a joint statement.

Last August 9, 2022, the Sugar Board issued Sugar Order No. 4, authorizing the importation of 300,000 mt sugar. Comprising the Sugar Board were Agriculture Usec. Leocadio Sebastian, representing Pres. Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. as Agri Secretary; SRA Administrator Hermie Serafica; and SRA Board Members Aurelio Valderrama, Jr. (Planters Representative) and Atty. Roland Beltran (Millers Representative).

Under the impression that he was authorized to sign the Sugar Order in behalf of Pres. Marcos by virtue of a memorandum issued by then Executive Secretary Victor Rodrigues, Usec. Sebastian signed the order in behalf of the President. When the President learned of the sugar order, he disapproved it, prompting SRA to withdraw the sugar order.

Allegations of impropriety were hurled against the four officials, leading to a full-blown Senate Blue Ribbon Committee investigation, and an independent investigation by the Office of the President.

The NFSP, Panayfed and Confed, which make up more than 50 percent of national sugar production, had supported Valderrama amid all the allegations. The three federations issued public statements reiterating their belief in Valderrama’s good faith and honesty.

Recently, the Office of the President released the result of its investigation, duly approved and signed by the new Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

“Respondents Leocadio S. Sebastian, Hermenegildo R. Serafica, Atty. Roland B. Beltran and Aurelio L. Valderrama, Jr. are hereby absolved of any liability as to the offenses charged,” the decision stated. Moreover, the decision dismissed the case filed against the four officials. (PR)

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