Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Wednesday announced that criminal charges will be filed against 119 individuals, including Clarito Barron, a former head of the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), and alleged onion-garlic cartel queen Lilia Matabang Cruz.
De Lima said two sets of charges are to be lodged before the Department of Justice and the Office of the Ombudsman.
The group of Cruz, also known as Lea, according to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), cornered the onion and garlic trade from January to July 2014.
“We hope to stop this cartel after President Benigno Aquino 3rd ordered me to investigate it and to file corresponding charges,” de Lima told reporters in a news conference.
Barron is accused of receiving P240,000 cash as bribe in exchange for issuing four, at P60,000 each, import permits.
Also to be named in the charge sheet are Merle Bautista Palacpac, officer in charge of Plant Quarantine Service; and Luben Quijano Marasigan, former PQS chief and now quarantine officer assigned at North Harbor, Manila.
Barron, according to de Lima, is still connected with the Department of Agriculture.
Meanwhile, the Justice chief said Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala is also under investigation.
De Lima said the NBI’s Romulo Asis is gathering evidence against Alcala, including affidavits from witnesses.
Barron and the other government officials are to be charged with violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act; Revised Penal Code (direct bribery) and Presidential Decree 1829 (Penalizing Obstruction of Apprehension and Prosecution of Criminal Offenders) for their failure to cooperate in submitting needed documents and to appear before NBI probers.
Cruz is the president of Vegetable Importers, Exporters and Vendors Association of the Philippines (Vieva Phils.) Inc. with business address at Barangay Cojuangco, Santa Rosa, Nueva Ecija.