Lawmakers commend the decisive action taken by the Marcos administration against erring NFA officials and advocate for the restructuring of the agency

Deputy Majority Leader for Communications and ACT-CIS Party-list Rep. Erwin Tulfo, Committee on Labor and Employment chairman and Rizal 4th District Rep. Fidel Nograles, Assistant Majority Leader and Nueva Ecija 1st District Rep. Mikaela Angela Suansing and Assistant Majority Leader and Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Raul Angelo Bongalon explain the benefits of the “internationalization” of higher education, which is among the proposed amendments to the Constitution, during a press briefing held at the House of Representatives on Tuesday (March 5, 2024). (Text & Photo courtesy of House of Representatives)

HOUSE leaders on Tuesday lauded the Marcos administration’s strong resolve in going after erring officials of the National Food Authority in light of the preventive suspension of 139 officials and employees of the agency for an alleged disadvantageous transaction involving the sale of rice buffer stock.

Deputy Minority Leader for Communications and ACT-CIS Rep. Erwin Tulfo, House Assistant Majority Leaders Mikaela Angela “Mika” Suansing of Nueva Ecija and Raul Angelo “Jil” Bongalon of Ako Bicol Partylist, and House Committee on Labor and Employment Fidel Nograles of Rizal all hailed the Ombudsman’s suspension of NFA officials and employees, including its administrator Roderico Bioco.

“We very much welcome the action of the administration of President Bongbong Marcos in this preventive suspension of 139 employees from the NFA. I believe this is a strong testament to our President’s commitment to eradicating corruption and demanding accountability from public officials in the government,” Suansing said.

Tulfo said the wrongdoing being ascribed to suspended officials of the NFA runs counter to the efforts of President Marcos and Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez to bring down the price of rice and ensure the food security of Filipinos.

“Pati si Speaker po nung isang araw, bago umalis kausap ko, eh medyo naiinis. Sabi, binagsak na lang din nila, binagsak na nila sa palengke. Lahat dapat ng palengke binigyan nila ng bigas na ‘yan para kahit papano ilang daang libo kababayan natin nakabili ng bigas rather than napunta lang sa bulsa ng ilan,” Tulfo said.

“Binenta mo lang pala ng mura, bakit di mo na binenta sa palengke? Dapat ho talagang panagutan nila yan samantalang mga kababayan natin cannot afford to buy na mga bigas na mga nasa 30 at 40 pesos, sila ibabagsak nila sa 25. Di ba naman lapastangan naman ho yon at tsaka insulto,” he added.

“Dapat ho talaga managot sila, dapat makasuhan sila.”

For Bongalon, not only does the dismissal show the commitment of President Marcos in going after erring public officials, but it also displays a lack of preferential treatment to high officials of government.

“Talagang seryoso po ang gobyerno sa laban sa mga kurapsyon. And in fact, NFA administrator ka man o karaniwang empleyado ng NFA, eh wala pong sinasanto ang ating gobyerno,” Bongalon said.

“Dagdag ko lang din na hindi lamang dapat sa mga public officials involve nakatuon ang imbestigasyon, pati na rin po sa mga pribadong indibidwal na kasabwat po ng mga public officials natin eh makasama din dapat sa mga makasuhan,” he added.

Both Tulfo and Suansing favor restructuring the mandate of the NFA, citing efforts from past Congresses to study the proposal.

“Perhaps we have to do an extensive evaluation of the mandate of the NFA and whether or not this is being fulfilled at the moment. Kasi makikita din naman natin na malaki rin ‘yung ginagampanang papel ng NFA in terms of rice buffer stocks, in terms of helping our farmers at times of harvest,” Suansing said.

“Perhaps before we take decision on what means to be done, there has to be an extensive evaluation of whether or not the NFA is currently performing their mandate and whether the scope of their work and responsibility is still appropriate for the times,” she added.

For Nograles, the NFA should not be abolished as it still plays an important role in our country’s efforts to gain food security.

“Mahalaga po yung mandato at tungkulin ng NFA ngayon, lalong-lalo na sa panahon ng El Niño. Mayroon hong banta na tuloy-tuloy ang pagtaas ng presyo ng bigas. Kaya umaasa ho tayo sa NFA na tulungan ho tayo,” Nograles said.

Tulfo agreed, and instead of fully dissolving the NFA as an agency, a restructuring of its mandate can be done first.

“As a matter of fact, based on my observation, ang dami nating agencies na kailangang ire-structure dahil ‘yung iba wala nang silbi, its defeating the purpose. NFA was established way back in the 70’s. NGA pa dati ‘yan – National Grains Authority, tama po sila ang bumibili ng bigas,” Tulfo expressed.

“At sa mga palengke dati, naabutan mo pa siguro na binibenta NFA rice, wala na hong ganon ngayon eh, because of this Rice Tariffication Law natin, inalis na sa kanila,” he added.

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