• Pangilinan rejects NFA chief’s resignation

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    NATIONAL Food Authority (NFA) administrator Arthur Juan on Friday tendered his resignation amid accusations of extortion by a Bulacan-based rice trader but it was rejected by Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization Francis Pangilinan.

    “I was chosen for this job by a selection committee. And for delicadeza purposes, I’d like to already mention to the group that I have filed my courtesy resignation to the secretary,” Juan said during a press conference in Makati City.

    Nevertheless, Juan said he is ready to face any investigation related to the extortion case.

    Juan is accused of extorting P15 million from rice trader Jojo Soliman, whose warehouse in Malolos, Bulacan was raided last month for alleged unscrupulous practice of selling adulterated rice.

    Besides the NFA chief, Soliman also linked Pangilinan, Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, and Juan’s assistant Atty. Patricia Galang to the extortion case.

    In his sworn statement before the National Bureau of Investigation, Soliman claimed that the NFA chief asked for P15 million in exchange of dropping of charges against him and the reopening of his business.

    Soliman said Juan told him that the P10 million will be divided between Roxas and Pangilinan while the NFA chief will keep the P5 million.

    Soliman said Juan’s share would be placed inside a Louis Vuitton slingbag and then left under the table at a barbecue and noodles restaurant in Makati City for pickup.

    He said Juan’s assistant, lawyer Patricia Galang, requested that the money be placed inside the LV bag worth P76,000. He said the lawyer instructed him to leave the bag at the restaurant where it will be picked up right after he leaves.

    But Juan categorically denied that he had never dealt in any capacity or having received amounts of money in exchange for the dropping of cases against Soliman, which stemmed from the closure of the latter’s warehouse in Malolos.

    “I would like to categorically state that the allegations of Mr. Jojo Soliman are not true. They are baseless and mere fabrication,” said Juan, who is less than two months in government service.

    Juan denied the alleged cellphone that was used for extortion is not his, and do not know the people that are identified as owners in the bank account that was mentioned by Soliman.

    “I had only known Atty. Peegee Galang only just June 30. Next, I have only seen Mr. Jojo Soliman once on July 7 when there was inspection of his Malolos warehouse. I also do not know Sec. Mar Roxas on a personal basis. I only met him last July 7. We will not hesitate to file perjury charges against Mr. Jojo Soliman,” he added.

    Juan said that the allegations is Soliman’s way of getting back at the NFA’s reform agenda and efforts to go after unscrupulous traders taking advantage of the situation as regards the prices of rice.

    “I’d like to state also that I’ve had, in my very long years in service both in the military and also in private service and now with NFA, I’ve never had a case in my life. This is probably the first case that I am going to face in my life,” he added.

    Galang echoed Juan’s statement, saying that they are now in the position of addressing the “baseless” accusations because they are only doing our jobs in trying to clean up the organization.

    “I would like to state that I categorically deny all the allegations of Mr. Soliman of any wrongdoings on our part . . . It is completely untrue that we have done these things hurled against us,” she said.

    Pangilinan said rejected Juan’s resignation because the NFA administrator is a Presidential appointee. He also denied the allegation, saying that he will leave the probe on the case to the NBI.

    “It’s not for me to accept, but I persuaded him to stay on because I believe the accusations against him are unfounded. We will however cooperate with the on going NBI investigation and respect their findings,” Pangilinan said.

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