Two planters’ group laud exoneration of ex-SRA officials in sugar order mess

By Dolly Yasa

BACOLOD City – Two planters groups in Western Visayas lauded Malacañang for clearing former officials of the Sugar Regulatory Administration including a Negrense from any wrongdoing in the recent sugar order hullabaloo.

This stemmed from the foiled importation of 300,000 metric tons (MT) of refined sugar in August 2022.

Enrique D. Rojas, president of the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters (NFSP), and Danilo Abelita, president of the Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers (Panayfed), said in a joint statement dated Jan. 6 that justice prevailed in the decision of the Office of the President in clearing former Agriculture and Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) officials of wrongdoing in issuing the controversial sugar order.

Malacañang’s recent decision upheld that there was no bad faith, malice, misconduct, or dishonesty committed by four former SRA officials in the issuance of Sugar Order No. 4.

“We have supported the sugar order right from the start, and we are happy for Confed president Aurelio ‘Bodie’ Valderrama, Jr. that this decision eventually cleared his name of any wrongdoing,” Rojas and Abelita said.

On Aug. 9, 2022, the Sugar Board issued Sugar Order No. 4 authorizing the importation of 300,000 MT of sugar.

The sugar Board then was composed of Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian, representing President Marcos as Agriculture secretary, SRA Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica, and SRA Board Members Valderrama and Roland Beltran, representing the planters and millers, respectively.

Sebastian believed a memorandum from then-Executive Secretary Victor Rodriguez authorized him to sign the sugar order on behalf of the President.

But when President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. learned of the sugar order, he disapproved, prompting the SRA to withdraw it.

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee and Office of the President investigated the four officials after misconduct allegations.

NFSP, Panayfed, and Confed, which produce over 50 percent of national sugar, supported Valderrama despite the charges.

The three federations also reaffirmed their trust in Valderrama.

Just last week, the Office of the President released the result of its investigation which was approved and signed by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin.

The decision cleared the four of any liability and dismissed the case against them.

Valderama, in an earlier statement, said it was a vindication he has prayed for.