DA Undersecretary Sebastian resigns due to sugar import mess

By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

August 12, 2022, 11:04 pm

<p><em>(File photo)</em></p>

(File photo)

MANILA – Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian has resigned from his post at the Department of Agriculture (DA) following his role in the unauthorized signing of a sugar importation order, Malacañang announced Friday night.

Sebastian submitted his letter dated August 11, offering "to be relieved of my delegated authorities and the assignments and responsibilities in my capacity as Chief of Staff and Undersecretary."

He admitted that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. did not give his authorization on the issuance of the order, Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said.

Nagbigay po ng letter of resignation si Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian (Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian submitted his resignation),” she said in a Facebook live.

Inaamin niya na nag-convene siya ng Sugar Regulatory Board at pumirma siyaInaamin niyang walang pahintulot ito ng Pangulo (He admitted that he convened the Sugar Regulatory Board and he signed the resolution... He admitted that it was not aauthorized by the President),” Cruz-Angeles added.

Cruz-Angeles maintained that the meeting held for the issuance of the unauthorized resolution was “illegal” because it was not convened by Marcos, who concurrently chairs the Sugar Regulatory Board.

During the “Laging Handa” public briefing aired on state-run People’s Television Network Friday, Cruz-Angeles said “heads will roll" if there are sufficient findings against those involved in the unauthorized signing of a resolution that supposedly approved the importation of 300,000 metric tons (MT) of sugar.

Cruz-Angeles on Wednesday announced that Marcos rejected the Sugar Regulatory Administration's (SRA) proposal to import 300,000 MT of sugar amid the high price of sugar in the market.

Prior to Cruz-Angeles' announcement, the resolution which allegedly approved the sugar importation, was uploaded on the SRA website but later deleted.

Sebastian was a signatory in the resolution.

A copy of Sebastian's resignation letter was made public by the Office of the Press Secretary.

Sebastian apologized to Marcos and assumed responsibility for the illegal issuance of the resolution.

"I sincerely offer my apologies, Your Excellency, for my having approved Sugar Order no. 4 on your behalf, and through the authority you had vested upon me. It has become clear that the same was not in keeping with your administration's desired direction for the sugar industry. I take accountability and responsibility for its consequences," he said.

Quizzed if there will be cases that will be slapped against Sebastian, Cruz-Angeles said “kapag administratiba ang kaso, ang pinakamataas na penalty ay dismissal. So, 'pag napangunahan ng resignation, 'yun na po 'yun (If the case is administrative, the highest penalty is dismissal. But since he already resigned, there is no longer need to dismiss him)."

"Ngayon, titignan natin 'yung resulta ng imbestigasyon kung kinakailangan pa ng mas malalim na imbestigasyon (Now, let's see if the result of the investigation if it will need a more thorough investigation) that will require a law enforcement agency. Sa ngayon, ang nakikita natin ay (For now, what we see is) the investigation is primarily administrative in nature," she added.

Meantime, Cruz-Angeles clarified that Executive Secretary (ES) Victor Rodriguez has no role in the sugar importation order.

"He had nothing to do with this," she said. "Wala pong kinalaman si ES sa importation resolution ng Sugar Regulatory Board. Hindi po siya ang nag-utos nang nag-convene nito (ES is not involved in the issuance of importation resolution by the Sugar Regulatory Board. He did not make an order to convene the meting)," she said.

Cruz-Angeles similarly refuted claims that Rodriguez has designated Sebastian as one of DA officials who may sign any document on behalf of the Executive Secretary and the President.

She made the clarification after she earlier noted that Rodriguez ordered the creation of an importation plan.

She said Rodriguez' directive on the importation plan is "not illegal".

"In fact, kailangan ang importation plan para makilatis 'yung pinu-push nila na dapat mag-import daw ng asukal (the importation plan is needed for the scrutiny of the proposed importation of sugar)," Cruz-Angeles said. (PNA)