Jason Aquino won, consumers lost in NFA Council shake-up – Pangilinan

MANILA, Philippines – The Filipino consumer is the biggest loser in President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to remove Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr as chairman of the National Food Authority (NFA) Council.

Minority Senator Francis Pangilinan, who headed the NFA Council under the previous administration, questioned the decision which makes NFA Administrator Jason Aquino the “clear winner” despite corruption allegations against him.

“Bakit 'yung may track record na malinis at nagpapaimbestiga ng mga iligal na gawain sa NFA ang tinanggal habang ang mga sangkot sa kurakot ang kinampihan?" Pangilinan asked in a statement on Tuesday, April 17.

(How come the one with the clean track record and who was investigating illegal acts in the NFA was removed, while they sided with those involved in corruption?)

"Nasaan ang sinseridad ng gobyerno na habulin ang tiwali kung ang mga kaalyado nitong malinis ang hangarin at tumututol sa katiwalian ay hindi pinapanigan?” he added.

(Where is this government's sincerity to run after the corrupt when it is not siding with its allies who have clean intentions and are against corruption?)

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque announced that the NFA, the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), and the Fertilizer and Pesticides Authority (FPA) will now be returned to the supervision of the Department of Agriculture, headed by Manny Piñol.

Duterte’s decision came amid the controversial supply of NFA rice reserves under Aquino.

Aquino drew criticisms from senators after he made public statements announcing rice shortage, which then caused rice prices to shoot up.

“Sa ganitong sitwasyon lalo lang mananatiling mismanaged ang NFA at supply ng bigas sa bansa, at patuloy na tataas ang presyo ng bigas na magiging sanhi ng gutom lalo na sa mahihirap nating mga kababayan," Pangilinan said.

(Under such a situation, the NFA and the rice supply in the country will continue to be mismanaged, and rice prices would continue to increase and cause hunger, especially among our poor countrymen.)

Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV also slammed Evasco’s removal, saying it is “a loss in our fight against corruption."

“During his time in the NFA Council, Evasco proved his dedication to providing checks and balances to the NFA. Without the checks and balances that Sec. Evasco endeavored to implement, corrupt deals will continue unpunished,” Senator Aquino said.

During an earlier Senate hearing, grains retailers’ organizations said that sacks of NFA rice were being sold to commercial traders. At the time, the NFA chief failed to explain the purported shortage in buffer stock when the NFA rice distribution had gone up to 245%. (READ: Senators, NFA Council blame Jason Aquino for NFA rice price hike)

Before his removal as NFA Council chair was announced, Rappler learned that Evasco gave a confidential memorandum to Duterte detailing how Aquino had allegedly diverted P10 million worth of NFA rice for typhoon-prone Eastern Visayas to private Bulacan traders. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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