INDIRECT CONTEMPT. The first page of the May 23, 2022 order issued by Presiding Judge Walter Zorilla of the Regional Trial Court Branch 55 in Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental, directing Sugar Regulatory Administration chief Hermenegildo Serafica to show cause why he should not be cited in contempt of court. Serafica is being ordered to explain why he implemented Sugar Order No. 3 for the importation of 200,000 metric tons of refined sugar for industrial users. (Image courtesy of Asociacion de Agricultores de la Carlota y Pontevedra Inc.)

BACOLOD CITY – The Negros-based Asociacion de Agricultores de la Carlota y Pontevedra Inc. (AALCPI) welcomed on Wednesday the indirect contempt proceedings initiated by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 55 in Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental against Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) chief Hermenegildo Serafica.

Serafica is ordered to explain why he implemented Sugar Order No. 3 (SO3) for the importation of 200,000 metric tons of refined sugar for industrial users despite an injunction while a civil case is pending before the court.

In a statement, case intervenor David Alba, general manager of AALCPI and representative of the La Carlota Mill District Multi-Purpose Cooperative, said the memorandum issued by Serafica to continue implementing SO3 outside Western Visayas is a “slap to our courts of law”.

“We are thankful to the court for hearing the plea of our 13,000 sugar farmer-members who have been greatly affected by the orders issued by Serafica without proper consultation,” he added.

AALCPI is the largest independent sugar group in Negros Island, mostly comprised of agrarian reform beneficiaries.

Alba said the SRA chief’s actions prove their point that he is “bent to accommodate the industrial users, particularly the bottling industries, to the detriment of the entire sugar industry and even the general public”.

“We continue to reiterate our call that while we are not against sugar importation per se, this decision must be done with proper consultation and must ensure that it will not only serve and benefit the few, but the entire country,” he added.

Last February, the courts in the cities of Sagay and Himamaylan issued separate preliminary injunctions on SO 3, with an order to maintain the status quo to be effective until the termination of the case unless earlier lifted.

The main petitioner in the Himamaylan City court case is Enrique Tayo, chairman of the Negros Occidental Federation of Farmers Association.

In May, the United Sugar Producers Federation, the country’s biggest sugar producers’ group with more than 30,000 member-planters, called out the SRA and the Department of Agriculture for proceeding with the importation since there is a pending case against such action.

In his order dated May 23, a copy of which was furnished by the AALCPI to the local media on Wednesday, RTC Branch 55 Presiding Judge Walter Zorilla directed Serafica to show cause within 15 days why he should not be cited in contempt of court.

Zorilla also set the initial presentation of petitioners’ evidence and hearing of indirect contempt proceedings this coming August 24. (PNA)