Politics

Palace assures Marcos won’t interfere in sugar importation probe 

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Packs of sugar are arranged on a shelf in a store in Quiapo, Manila, Aug. 11. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ EDD GUMBAN

PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. will not interfere in the investigation into the alleged unauthorized attempt to import sugar amid tight local supply, his press chief said over the weekend.   

“The President is objective; he’s leaving the investigation to be conducted without his interference, it must be fair,” Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles told state-run Radyo Pilipinas.  

“He will attend to other matters while this is being conducted.”  

The executive department, through Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs Richard Palpalatoc, is now investigating officials of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) after signing an order that would have allowed the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar.  

The Presidential Palace has called the order “illegal,” noting that the SRA board was convened without the knowledge of the President. Mr. Marcos chairs the SRA board as agriculture secretary.  

“This is a big deal because there appears to be an intent to mislead [the President],” Ms. Cruz-Angeles said.   

“Is he supposed to uphold that? Is he supposed to go along with it? Is he supposed to trust that these things can work on their own, even if he has no explicit authority given to these people?” she added. “Of course, that can cause hurt feelings.”  

Ms. Cruz-Angeles earlier said that the order appears to have been signed by Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio S. Sebastian “on behalf” of Mr. Marcos. 

Mr. Sebastian tendered his resignation in a letter dated Aug. 11, saying he is responsible for the “consequences” of his action.   

Ms. Cruz-Angeles said on Friday said that the resignation won’t affect a possible criminal case.  

Ms. Cruz-Angeles said there were admissions in Mr. Sebastian’s resignation letter that could be used as evidence in a potential administrative case. “Those admissions can be presented as evidence for the prosecution kung saka-sakaling may (should there be a) criminal case.” 

Analysts said sugar importation was needed to temper the rise in sugar prices. The country’s tight supply has already affected local food manufacturers and exporters, they said.  

Mr. Marcos took the helm of the Agriculture department in June, vowing to boost local production and limit imports “as much as possible.” — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza