NFA chief tenders courtesy resignation

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – In office for barely two months, National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator Arthur Juan tendered his courtesy resignation on Friday, August 15, even as he denied extortion allegations against him made by a rice trader.

Juan submitted his courtesy resignation to the office of  Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization Kiko Pangilinan, but this was rejected by the former senator.

Juan was at the office for a news briefing to dispute the extortion allegations against him and his assistant, lawyer Patricia Galang, made by rice trader Jomerito "Jojo" Soliman. 

"I would like to categorically state that the allegations of Mr Jojo Soliman are not true. They are baseless and mere fabrication. I am barely two months old in my office and in the span of two months I have brought a reform agenda to NFA, both inside and outside NFA," Juan said.

Soliman alleged that Juan and Galang tried to extort P15 million from him – P5 million each for Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, Pangilinan, and the NFA chief – in exchange for dropping charges against the businessman and reopening his warehouse which was raided by authorities led by Roxas in July for alleged hoarding.

Juan said that in all his years in the military and the private sector, he had never faced any charges, and that he offered to resign out of "delicadeza (sense of propriety)." He said he will cooperate with the investigation.

In his statement, Pangilinan said he had prevailed upon Juan, as well as Galang who had also tendered her courtesy resignation, to remain at the NFA. 

He said Juan's appointment as NFA chief had been endorsed by the Management Association of the Philippines and a search committee he created to help him screen  candidates. The search commitee had among its members former Agriculture Secretary Senen Bacani and former Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Cielito Habito.

"I spoke with all the members of the search committee last night and this morning, and they were one in acknowledging the integrity of Art Juan. They don't believe that Mr Art Juan is capable of the allegations against him," Pangilinan said in Filipino

Prior to his appointment, Juan was president of Monterey Foods Corporation and then of San Miguel Foods Inc, the food division of San Miguel Corporation. He assumed the position vacated by Orlan Calayag on June 23.

Roxas: Full cooperation with NBI investigation

In a statement, Roxas strongly denied the allegation and said he would “fully cooperate” with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) which is investigating the  complaint made by Soliman.

“It angers and saddens me that my clean name is being dragged into an alleged extortion attempt made by other people. I am giving my full cooperation to the NBI investigation on the case to shed light on this issue,” he said in Filipino.

Roxas said he expects the NBI to “fully investigate the accusations to determine if Mr Jojo Soliman is telling the truth.”

“I am expecting the NBI to follow the money trail to determine if this really happened. Who received the money, and what happened to the money? Is it still there or not? If it’s no longer there, where did it go? Those responsible for this should be held accountable,” he said.

Roxas said he would “never allow” anyone to use his name for illegal activities, especially as he oversees the Philippine National Police in his capacity as Interior Secretary.

“It is my job to implement the law. I am performing my duty seriously, no matter who I cross. I hope this serves as a lesson and warning to others thinking of committing a crime. I will never allow my name to be used by anyone in illegal transactions,” he said. – Rappler.com