Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez admitted ignoring text messages from former Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian on the prospect of importing sugar despite the urgency of addressing the issue of shortage.
Facing the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Tuesday (August 23), Rodriguez confirmed receiving texts from Sebastian about orders from President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to import sugar.
“On Aug. 7, I received a text message from Senior Usec. Leo Sebastian and the message contains and I quote ‘Good afternoon, ES Vic. Any instruction from the President after his meeting with SING on sugar?’ I purposely did not answer him dahil wala pa pong tugon ang pangulo,” the Executive Secretary recalled.
“On Aug 8, Monday, I received again another message from Usec. Leo Sebastian… Again I purposely did not respond because these there are matters he has yet to decide on,” he added.
Rodriguez said he later found out that Sebastian signed Sugar Order No. 4 green-lighting the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar.
Sebastian signed for and on behalf of Marcos, who concurrently sits as Agriculture chief. He said he decided to approve the importation as he deemed fit for the industry.
“If you can imagine, given the authority under the memo, if I don’t act I could be reprimanded, but if I also ask, that’s also a risk. So I decided (to sign),” he explained.
“The private sector was also pushing for more supply of sugar… Millers, refiners, planters and all were unanimous that we go into 300,000 MT importation, these are all documented, the S.O. was not decided in one day, it went through consultation, we based it on data,” Sebastian added.
Barely a month before SO4 was signed, Rodriguez issued a memo giving Sebastian the authority to lead the procurement on DA’s behalf.
Sebastian resigned after Malacañang said the plan to import sugar didn’t have Marcos’ approval.
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