Graft charges recommended vs Nat'l Food Authority chief
MANILA, Philippines – The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has recommended the filing of graft charges against National Food Authority (NFA) administrator Arthur Juan and his assistant, lawyer Patricia Galang, over an alleged extortion attempt on a rice trader.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima confirmed on Tuesday, September 16, that the NBI had wrapped up its probe into the complaint of rice trader Jomerito “Jojo” Soliman, who claimed that Juan and Galang extorted P15 million from him after his warehouse in Bulacan was raided by authorities in July.
“The NBI report is already with me but as to when exactly I will release that, I have to decide on that. Of course, I cannot tell you yet the content of the report until the time it has been released. I just want to be very sure that there is enough basis in their recommendation,” the justice secretary told reporters.
The NBI report was submitted to De Lima on September 8.
Soliman's Purefeeds warehouse was raided by the NFA and the police for hoarding supplies, which the government said contributed to the rising prices of the staple food.
Shortly after, the rice trader filed a complaint with the NBI, alleging that Juan and Galang threatened to file charges against him if he didn't give P15 million, supposedly to be divided equally between Juan, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, and Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization Francis Pangilinan.
The newly appointed Juan denied the allegation and tendered his resignation, but Pangilinan asked him to stay.
An NBI official, who requested not to be named, said their investigators recommended that complaints of violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act be filed before the Office of the Ombudsman against Juan and Galang.
The official said NBI investigators have sufficient evidence of extortion, one of them being a text message supposedly sent by Juan to Soliman.
An NBI staff reportedly attested that the number from which the extortion message was sent was the same number that Juan gave the NBI when he visited their office upon his appointment as NFA administrator.
“The investigators were able to prove that the mobile phone number used in the extortion of Soliman did in fact belong to Juan. We were able to confirm that Juan had used the same number for his daily affairs,” the NBI source said.
The NBI, however, cleared Roxas and Pangilinan of extortion charges.
In his complaint, Soliman said Juan called him at least twice to ask for P15 million, threatening to file a case against him after the warehouse raid. The last call was made to his house.
Feeling harassed, he went to the NBI. – Rappler.com