JUSTICE Secretary Leila de Lima has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate allegations that National Food Authority (NFA) officials were involved in the “overpricing” of imported rice.
In an October 12, 2013 memorandum to NBI officer-in-charge Medardo Delemos, de Lima specifically directed the formation of “a special team to investigate and examine the rice importation scheme of the NFA” as contained in a letter sent by activist lawyer Argee Guevarra on September 1, 2013 to the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Delemos was given 15 days from receipt of the memo to submit an initial report on Guevarra’s allegations.
Guevarra bared the irregularities in the importation by NFA of 205,700 metric tons of rice in April this year.
De Lima cited the questionable importation of 187,000 metric tons (plus an additional 18,700) of rice under a government-to-government transaction which was “overpriced by as much as 450 million for a single transaction,” based on Guevarra’s letter.
The lawyer said that the importation of rice “may be a continuation of the profiteering scams which started during the Arroyo administration” because of the suspicious circumstances surrounding the importation.
Because the NBI is now scrutinizing the alleged rice importation irregularities, Guevarra reiterated his challenge to other members of the NFA Council to oppose “the efforts of [NFA Administrator Orlan Calayag and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala] to pursue a rice importation policy that clearly does not benefit our people.”
“G2G [government to government]importation benefits no one––except maybe those who stand to profit from it,” he pointed out.
Alcala and Calayag have been pushing for additional government-funded rice importation in light of the legislative inquiries into the scheme, which experts have branded as grossly disadvantageous to the government.
The NFA Council is chaired by the DA Secretary, while the NFA Administrator sits as vice chairperson. Other council members are from other government agencies.
“[NFA Council members] should not allow themselves to become unwitting accomplices of Alcala and Calayag [as congressional inquiries]have raised more questions about the rationale behind government-led rice importation.
If Council members are not careful, they may be dragged into this mess,” Guevarra said.