My first two posts on government funded rice importation caused a bit of a stir, but not enough to change the mind of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala to stop the government to government importation of rice. It isn’t enough that after the Arroyo Administration’s P732 Million Fertilizer Fund Scam, the DA insists on continuing a rice scam that leads to billions of pesos in losses due to waste and corruption.
The recent announcement from DA is that it won’t import rice outside of the Minimum Access Volume next year only means that it will continue its policy of maintaining barriers to privately funded, market driven rice importation — even when it has been sufficiently shown that private enterprise could supply the country with cheaper, better quality rice.
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Anyway, having been made aware again of the continuing racket in the DA — propped up at the expense of the country’s low income rice consumers and at the cost of wasting more than billions of pesos a year — friends sent me a list of reasons why Agriculture Secretary Alcala should just resign from his post.
Perhaps the list of reasons may be a bit harsh, but then again, so is eating pagpag — which would be hardly necessary if Alcala were up to the task of building up the country’s agriculture so that it could provide food for everyone.
Below is the list of reasons why Alcala should resign:
#10. He’s not even supposed to be there in the first place.
Socio-economic Planning Sec. Arsenio Balisacan is a respected economist; Finance Sec. Cesar Purisima, an internally-recognized financial expert, Education Sec. Armin Luistro is a career educator; Health Sec. Enrique Ona, a doctor; Justice Sec. Leila de Lima, a top-notch lawyer; Defense Sec. Voltaire Gazmin, a retired soldier.
Proceso Alcala – Agriculture Secretary for an agricultural nation of nearly a hundred million people – was an Engineer?(Did he even practice?) A 2-term Congressman?
In truth, his only claim to fame in the agriculture sector is having co-authored the Organic Agricultural Act of 2010 and having conceptualized the “epal” program, Procesong Gulay Para sa Masaganang Buhay in his district.
If he did do anything of national significance for the agriculture sector while being Vice Chairperson for the House Agriculture Committee, this was eclipsed, no doubt, by allegations that he, as a congressman in 2008, disbursed P3.5 million in pork barrel funds to a dubious non-governmental organization (NGO) – with an Ombudsman case to show for it.
#09. Directionally-challenged Alcala cannot, will not, walk the straight and righteous.
Some people just don’t learn. Accused as a congressman of having disbursed P3.5 million to a bogus NGO, Alcala’s office in the DA was named “key facilitator” in the alleged funneling of government funds to at least two NGOs formed by Janet Lim-Napoles.
And the “compensation” seems to have leveled up to match the promotion, from P3.5 million as congressman to the previously reported P89.2 million as Cabinet Secretary. (Of course Alcala would later say “only P83.2 million,” but hey, how much difference does that make really?)
#08. No joke, a friend of Jocjoc’s is a friend of Procy too.
Remember Jocjoc Bolante of the infamous P432 million (later P728 million) fertilizer fund scam? Napoles was also implicated in that controversy. No, but she’s not the friend Alcala and Bolante shares (who knows though?).
We refer to DA official, Ophelia Agawin, named then in the P728 million fertilizer scam, named again by whistleblower, Merlin P. Suñas, as a conduit to a web of fake Napoles NGOs.
Agawin should have been sacked then just as Napoles should have been arrested, but neither was. Hence, the current pork barrel fund controversy.
Two questions: (1) Who re-appointed and later promoted Agawin to Assistant Secretary? (A show of hand please, Mr. Secretary?); and (2) Does this make Procy the new Jocjoc?
#07. His choice of friends is questionable
That should be obvious by now given his promotion of “scam veteran” Agawin. But wait, there’s more. There, too, are Undersecretaries – both Alcala appointees – Antonio Fleta and Claron Alcantara.
Fleta, Agawin’s immediate boss (they share adjoining rooms) reportedly had Napoles and her staff, as frequent visitors.
Fleta, one among a core group officials from Quezon who entered the department with Alcala in 2010, is closely affiliated with the Abono party-list group whose representatives and kin allegedly coursed their pork barrel funds to another fake Napoles NGO.
They were Robert Raymund Estrella of Abono (P31.5 million); Conrado Estrella III (P20 million) and La Union Rep. Victor Ortega (P10 million).
Alcantara, on the other hand, was charged alongside then-congressman Alcala in 2008 for disbursing P3.5 million in pork barrel funds to a dubious NGO.
Alcala allocated the money to the Alcantara’s family-run NGO, Sir Pelagio Alcantara Development (Spade) Foundation Inc.
A pattern emerges …
#06. Good governance reforms have gone bad in the DA under Alcala’s watch
In his 12 September 2013 testimony at the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, Benhur Luy divulged that compared to the previous administration, “transactions” under the Aquino administration had been relatively “more difficult.” He, however, cited the Department of Agriculture, as special case of interest – it was business as usual there.
Under a reform-oriented government, the DA, now, sticks out like a sore thieving thumb.
#05. Alleged anomalies: too much, too many, to dismiss as coincidence
How’s one every month for three consecutive months under Alcala’s leadership?
In June, the political opposition chided Alcala in relation to the Commission on Audit’s (COA) finding that Alcala had paid himself P2.515 million in basic salary and P3.5 million in allowances, bonuses, and incentives as DA secretary, “while coconut farmers earned only P12,000 annually.”
In August, watchdog Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) bared a P200 million garlic importation anomaly involving DA agency, the Bureau of Plant Industries (BPI), and its supposedly “favored businesswoman.”
This month, the DA and another attached agency, National Food Authority (NFA), are currently under investigation in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, among others, for an alleged half-a-billion peso overpricing in its government-to-government rice importation scheme, exposed by nationwide consumers’ group, Ang Gawad Pinoy Consumers Cooperative.
#04. The man just couldn’t follow an honest-to-goodness plan (emphasis on “honest,” accent on “good”)
He serves under a “daang matuwid” regime but has seemingly never really gotten with the program.
He leads the crafting of a rice self-sufficiency roadmap, the 2011-2016 Food Staples Security Program (FSSP), and then decides to disregard its content, strategies, and targets altogether.
The FSSP cites as strategies, among others, to achieve rice self-sufficiency by 2013: “to allow the expiration of quantitative restriction on imported by 2012 and replace with equivalent tariffs,” and “(to) encourage private sector’s primary role in rice importation.” (Similar to the recommendations of Balisacan and NEDA, and Purisima and the DOF).
Dyslexic or diabolical, Alcala has implemented neither.
While the FSSP envisions the democratization of rice importation in the country, trends, following Alcala’s policies, have gone the way of a government monopoly of the industry.
Private sector importation has gone down to 3% of this year’s total imports from last year’s 76%; a 98% reduction in actual quantity. NFA imports, on the other hand, have actually nearly doubled, from 120,000 MT in 2012 to 205,700 MT this year. Private sector imports in 2012 was 380,000 MT out of 500,000 MT total imports; in 2013, so far, 7,000 MT out of 212,700 MT.
#03. Like a philandering husband, he manipulates, denies when caught, and gets mad when confronted.
All press releases and official statements by the DA and the NFA from April this year, to the President’s SoNA in July (quoting DA-NFA statistics), up until the first week of August, spoke of only 187,000 MT of total rice imports for 2013. Then came activist lawyer Argee Guevarra’s exposè of a supposedly undeclared 18,700 MT of additional imports – allegedly one of the sources of corruption in the half-a-billion peso “rice importation scam” – and everything changed. Suddenly, all official statements from DA and NFA, beginning with their 02 September official statement, talked of 205,000 MT (187,000 + 18,700) total imports for 2013. Google it!
The DA, under Alcala’s watch, misled the President and the public. Heads have rolled for so much less.
At the ongoing House inquiry, Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) Director, DA Assistant Secretary of Policy and Planning Romeo Recide, reported that according to optimistic projections, the country would be producing 18.45 million metric tons (MT) of rice in 2013, or 2.55 million MT short of the 21 million MT required for the country to be rice self-sufficient (projected by the FSSP).
Alcala contradicts: “Recide made a mistake. He’s just human.” 2.55 million MT shortfall in production, rice prices persistently on the rise, and Alcala insists supplies are sufficient.
Recide is a respected statistics expert and a former president, and currently board member, of the Philippine Statistical Association. Alcala was a two-term congressman? We’ll take our chances with Recide, thank you very much.
Immediately after a face off with Guevarra on ABS-CBN’s morning show Umagang Kay Ganda, Punto for Punto segment hosted by journalist Anthony Taberna, Alcala blew his top and threatened the lawyer.
In full view of everyone on the set, Alcala repeatedly shouted at Guevarra: “Tandaan mo, hawak ko ang bayag ko mula umaga hanggang gabi!” The lawyer had to be escorted out of the studio before Alcala’s bodyguards could get to him.
Now, we don’t know what he meant by those words, only that they were unnecessarily profane and certainly unbefitting a Cabinet Secretary.
#02. He claims but never proves; alleges but never substantiates; and generally, just over-promises but under-delivers.
He talks of “quarters” running “smear campaigns,” but never names them; faults “hoarders, smugglers, and saboteurs” whom he cannot identify, much less apprehend.
Alcala crows about rice self-sufficiency at a time when only a few could afford what little is sold on the market.
#01. Because his “bosses” want him out of there!
Alcala insists that he serves at the pleasure of the President, though the President himself serves at the pleasure of his bosses, the Filipino people.
Various sectors have either expressed dismay over Alcala’s leadership of the agriculture sector or out-rightly called for his resignation.
Multisectoral group, Bantay Bigas, complains of progressive rice price hikes; Ang Gawad Pinoy Consumers Cooperative accuses the DA and NFA of corruption; Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) charges the DA and BPI of the same; Bayan Muna wants Alcala to resign; so do farmers group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and fisherfolk organization Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya sa Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA). In an informal survey done by a television program, 55 percent of viewers said they want him out.
Recently, Alcala has been making a big thing of “statements of supports” he supposedly received from “satisfied” groups in the provinces.
The Secretary hasn’t been around the marketplaces, obviously. There, nobody is cheering for him. There, people wouldn’t need a rundown of the “Top 10 reasons why Proceso Alcala should quit the Department of Agriculture.” They just know in their guts, he should.