AMID a flurry of corruption charges and harsh criticisms, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala still enjoys the trust and confidence of President Benigno Aquino 3rd but this may change depending on the outcome of a performance audit on members of the Cabinet.
“To the best of my knowledge, he still enjoys the President’s trust and confidence,” said Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. when asked if Aquino’s relationship with Alcala was dampened by accusations of corruption, among others, against the latter.
“Each agency secretary has a performance contract, a performance agreement which we can also see in the national budget. This gives us concrete basis to determine if a Cabinet secretary or his agency abide by the performance standards set by the president,” Coloma stressed.
Alcala is facing a slew of criminal charges at the Office of the Ombudsman for his alleged involvement in “legitimate rice industry monopoly” as alleged by activist lawyer Argee Guevarra and other militant groups.
The lawyer has also filed plunder charges against officials of the Department of Agriculture for allegedly amassing more than P1 billion from the National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor).
In his 18-page criminal and administrative complaint, the lawyer said the officials should be prosecuted for plunder, violation of the Anti-Graft Law, malversation of public funds and violation of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
Guevarra said the P1.07 billion that the two had allegedly amassed was part of the P11.4 billion unaccounted funds of Nabcor based on a report from the Commission on Audit (COA) from 2009 to 2013.
Alcala brushed off the allegations as part of a smear campaign to discredit him, noting that Guevarra seemed to be advocating private rice importation.
Guevarra had previously accused DA officials of promoting state-sponsored rice smuggling through government to government rice importations. He argued that the G2G scheme only paved the way for complete government monopoly of the rice sector, which is against the law.
Meanwhile, Coloma said they are strengthening efforts to curb rice smuggling even as he took to task the Agriculture department to ensure the steady supply of rice.
“Not only pertaining to smuggling itself. There are many considerations here, including tariff measures and what they call quantitative restrictions. We must understand that we have an entire system that is involved so that the solution should also be systemic,” the official also explained.