Hontiveros: Former ES accountable for withholding details of sugar importation meeting

3:16 pm on 22 September 2022, Thursday

By Caryl Gonzales

Senate deputy minority leader Risa Hontiveros has asserted that former Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez should be held accountable for his vagueness about whether or not the meeting on sugar importation last August 4 took place.

The hybrid meeting was attended by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Former Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) chief Hermenegildo Serafica, and Rodriguez.

"Ichecheck daw nila, babalikan daw nila kami sa Blue Ribbon kung may meeting, eh andoon siya sa meeting. What smoke and mirrors is this?" Hontiveros said.

[They said they would check and would get back to us at the Blue Ribbon if there was a meeting, well, he was there at the meeting. What smoke and mirrors is this?]

During Hontiveros' interpolation of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee report on the sugar importation fiasco, she claimed that Rodriguez, along with Serafica and former SRA Board Member Aurelio Valderrama, should also be reprimanded for not divulging it at the start of the hearing when he presented a supposed timeline of events that they had met with the President and discussed the importation plan.

"In the last hearing, I proposed that the committee request for a copy of the zoom recording of the meeting. Was that request ever made? I still insist that request is valid and reasonable because the committee report itself mentions that meeting," Hontiveros questioned.

Hontiveros said this is not to "kick a man when he is already out" but material as Serafica and Valderrama are being accused of not disclosing the mention of the 600,000 metric tons of sugar was not disclosed immediately.

“Just based on fairness, kung kakastiguhin natin sina Serafica dahil mayroon silang hindi sinabi agad sa ating Komite sa simula ng ating imbestigasyon tingin ko lamang ay kailangan ding kastiguhin si Mr. Rodriguez," she furthered.

["Just based on fairness, if we are going to punish Serafica because they didn't tell our Committee immediately at the beginning of our investigation, I think Mr. Rodriguez should be punished as well,"]

To recall, during the last hearing of the Blue Ribbon Committee on the sugar fiasco, Serafica was called a liar after revealing that he met with President Marcos on Zoom, where he mentioned the amount of 600,000 MT of sugar.

However, this allegation was denied by the former executive secretary.

The deputy minority leader stressed that Valderrama backed up such a statement, and the uncorroborated testimony is that of Rodriguez that no such 600,000 MT amount was mentioned.

"Sabi ng good Chair during the hearing, there is no corroboration to the testimony of former Administrator Serafica. Pero hindi ba, is it not true that former Board Member Valderrama corroborated the testimony of Mr. Serafica? Ang uncorroborated testimony ay yung kay dating ES Rodriguez na walang 600,000 metric tons na nabanggit," she said.

["The good Chair said during the hearing, there is no corroboration to the testimony of former Administrator Serafica. But isn't it true that former Board Member Valderrama corroborated the testimony of Mr. Serafica? The uncorroborated testimony is that of former ES Rodriguez that there are no 600,000 metric tons (of sugar) was mentioned,"]

Hontiveros also questioned Rodriguez's failure to report back to the Senate, as he committed to do during the last hearing, to verify if such a hybrid meeting took place.

She added such failure is blatant disrespect to the Senate as an institution.

"An important point that needs to be made here is that despite the request of the Blue Ribbon Committee ay hindi tumugon, hindi tumupad si ES. In that instance, nagpakita na walang paggalang sa Senado," Hontiveros said.

["An important point that needs to be made here is that despite the request of the Blue Ribbon Committee, ES did not respond and comply. In that instance, it showed that there is no respect for the Senate,"]

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