Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator Orlan Calayag were charged with graft and plunder before the Office of the Ombudsman over the questionable importation of P457 million of rice from Vietnam.
In his 10-page criminal complaint, Argee Guevarra assailed the P4.1 billion government-to-government (G2G) transaction between the Philippines and Vietnam from which Alcala and Calayag allegedly got huge kickbacks.
Guevarra said that in April 2013, NFA officials transacted with Truong Thanh Phong, general director of Vietnam Southern Food Corp. (Vina Food II), for the importation of 205,700 metric tons of rice.
He said that Calayag’s deputy administrator Dennis Guerrero and a certain “Buddy R” flew to Vietnam without official clearance allegedly to meet Phong to “ostensibly conclude the deal.” They again met in Singapore and it was at this point when the kickback was given, according to Guevarra.
“Why this unofficial meeting? These and the circumstances described hereunder lead to the conclusion that an exchange of kickbacks occurred in Singapore,” he said.
The complainant said that Guerrero and Buddy R again flew to Vietnam on May 8. Three days later, NFA deputy administrator Ludovico Jarina joined them to secure quantitative restrictions on rice importation and to increase the minimum access volume to allow more imports.
Gueverra said for the April transaction alone, public funds lost to corruption amounted to $10.43 million, or P457 million. Between May 13 and June 20, the accused purchased rice for $459.75 per metric ton when the prevailing rate at the time was only $360 per metric ton.
If the cost of shipping worth $27 per metric ton and cost of delivery to warehouse worth $22 would be added, Vietnam rice should only be $409 per metric ton,” Guevarra said.
“This sufficiently explains the [Department of Agriculture’s] and NFA’s overzealous insistence on pushing the private sector out of the international rice trade business,” he said.
Guevarra claimed that the Philippines only has a contract with Vietnam for the importation of 187,000 metric tons of rice. However, 18,700 metric tons was allegedly inserted without approval from Fiscal Incentive Review Board.
He said that the NFA council acted as Alcala’s rubber stamp and acceded to his and Calayag’s “absolute control” of the rice trade.
“The NFA Council merely bowed in submission to respondents’ every wish and design” even if there were reasons to believe that the importation was overpriced, and that the additional 18,700 metric tons insertion was illegal,” he said. “The diabolical plan is to preserve government monopoly over rice importations in order to earn large kickbacks for themselves by reason of their public offices.”