By Erwin Colcol, September 2 2018; GMA Network
Image Credit to CNN Philippines
For Senator Francis Escudero, National Food Authority (NFA) administrator Jason Aquino clearly committed technical malversation in supposedly misusing P5.1 billion intended to stabilize the price and supply of rice and corn to pay for loans.
Escudero made the remark as he pinpointed Aquino as the focal person of the rice crisis in the country.
“Siya naman talaga ang pangunahing salarin dito na nadiskubre ng Kamara. ‘Yung pondong ibinigay namin sa NFA para sa budget ng 2018 para ibili ng suplay ng bigas, imbes na ibinili niya, ibinayad niya sa utang ng NFA,” Escudero told Super Radyo dzBB in an interview on Sunday.
“Bakit mo unang babayaran ‘yun samantalang ang specific provision ng budget, sinabi gamitin ito para bumili ng supply at buffer stock? Nilabag ni Administrator Aquino ‘yun. Maliwanag na technical malversation ang ginawa niya,” he added.
The Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) has charged Aquino and accounting services department manager Gerry Ambrosio for technical malversation and violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act before the Office of the Ombudsman.
In its complaint, SINAG cited the findings of the Commission on Audit that the NFA spent P3.01 billion for its Food and Security Program subsidy to offset previous guarantee fees and contribution to Debt Reserve Funds, while P2.09 billion went to loan payments.
The program was meant to purchase palay from farmers, and cover rice distribution and importation, grains business licensing and registration, and buffer stocking.
Escudero said Aquino should explain why he did the supposed act.
“Magandang itanong bakit niya ginawa ‘yun. Mahina lang ba talaga ang isip o utak niya? May pakinabang ba siyang nakuha? Dahil wala talagang rason sa totoo lang sa lohika kung bakit niya gagawin ‘yun,” he said.
Escudero said that in order to solve the rice crisis in the country, one immediate solution is to allow Aquino and Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol to discuss and mend their differences.
“Ang immediate solution sa personality-based na issue muna, paupuin, pagsamahin, pag-usapin at resolbahin ng mga opisyal na nangangasiwa sa bigas, partikular si Secretary Piñol at si Jason Aquino,” he said.
Aside from this, Escudero also suggested to allow the importation of rice and check its price.
“Ayon sa aming saliksik, undervalued ‘yung bigas na pinapasok nila at binebenta nang napakataas. Papasok na ‘yan sa economic sabotage,” he said.
“Dapat may sampolan ang Department of Trade and Industry at Bureau of Customs para marendahan itong mga nag-aangkat at nagpapasok ng bigas at pinagsasamantalahan ang kakulangan ng supply,” he added.
GMA News Online is contacting Aquino for comment as of posting time. —Erwin Colcol/KG, GMA News