The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday said the collusion of importers and some officials of agencies under the Department of Agriculture (DA) triggered the historic rise in garlic prices in June.
The DOJ said a cartel that controls the supply of garlic is responsible for driving up prices in the market.
The finding was contained in the 32-page report of the DOJ Office of Competition (OFC) that conducted a probe when the prices of garlic shot up to as high as P287 per kilo in or a 74-percent increase compared to the same month last year.
The DOJ opined that the increase in garlic prices was not due to a shortage since supplies and stocks were more than enough.
“The importation of garlic is controlled mainly by at least four known individuals and their allies who manage to operate through a web of dummy entities duly accredited by the Bureau of Plant Industry,” the report said.
“In particular, a person named Lilia Cruz, alias Leah Cruz, cornered at least 75 percent of the total garlic importation in the country by virtue of such import permits,” it pointed out.
This prompted Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to order the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to gather more evidence and file the necessary charges against the offenders.
The report also noted that the problem of importation system was traced to the Bureau of Plant and Industry (BPI) and National Garlic Action Team (NGAT) which are under the Department of Agriculture (DA).
The J ustice department pointed out that the BPI “should not be concerned with volume of imports or determining the financial capacity of importers,” and recommended that the agency be stripped of its power to issue import permits.
It also recommended the abolition of NGAT being “unnecessary and unhelpful.”
“Investigation revealed that it (NGAT) failed to serve its primary purpose to ensure a balanced representation from both government and private sectors. The composition of the NGAT suggested blatant conflict of interest,” the report said.