Marcos: NFA officials’ suspension a ‘safe measure’

STACKED SACKS OF RICE. Workers unload sacks of rice in a National Food Authority warehouse on Gov. Cuenco Ave. Prince Warehouse Club.
STACKED SACKS OF RICE. Workers unload sacks of rice in a National Food Authority warehouse on Gov. Cuenco Ave. Prince Warehouse Club.SunStar File

PRESIDENT Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said Wednesday, March 6, 2024, that the issue concerning the National Food Authority (NFA) is more than the anomalous sale of rice, noting that most importantly, it bares the vulnerability of procedures within the agency.

In an interview with reporters, Marcos expressed support for the preventive suspension imposed against some 139 NFA officials, saying it is a “safe measure.”

“So, we have taken the safe measure of suspending all of those who have been shown to may have been involved in any of these wrongdoings such as the anomalous sale but also the cavalier way in which the procedures that have been set out in the rules have been ignored,” he said.

Marcos also noted that the anomalous sale of rice was undertaken without board approval and proper discussion with the NFA.

He said those transactions also took place without the approval of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and “with the rest of the Cabinet.”

Marcos served as the secretary of the DA since he took office until he appointed Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. in November 2023.

NFA assistant administrator for finance and administration Piolito Santos was appointed as the officer-in-charge of the agency effective March 6.

Santos said he will oversee the routinary matters of the agency while other issues and concerns will be coursed through Laurel.

In a meeting, Santos said Laurel ordered department managers and the NFA leadership to change and iron out the process of sale of rice with prioritization on government, local government units and calamity-stricken areas, to avoid such anomalous deals from happening again.

He said Laurel instructed that near expiry rice grains should be sold in outlets through auction.

The Office of the Ombudsman suspended NFA officials, including NFA administrator Roderico Bioco, assistant administrator for operations John Robert Hermano, and 12 regional managers, 27 branch managers and 98 warehouse supervisors, amid investigation on the sale of milled rice stored in NFA’s warehouse for P25 a kilogram without bidding.

The palay grains were bought at P23 per kilogram. This allegedly happened in the last quarter of 2023. (TPM/SunStar Philippines)


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