Rice groups standing by embattled grains trader

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RICE trader Jojo Soliman, who filed a P15-million extortion case against National Food Authority Administrator Arthur Juan and his special assistant, lawyer Patricia “Peegee” Galang, has gained support from various groups in the grains industry and from some NFA personnel.

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A fellow trader, who goes by “Johnson Ariado” for fear of reprisals, on Tuesday said his group backs Soliman because “they believe in his credibility and that he would not do anything that would tarnish the image of Administrator Juan, unless he was forced to do so.”

“Wala naman talaga silang maikakaso sa kanya at iyon din ang dahilan kung bakit hangga ngayon ay wala pa namang naisasampang kaso laban sa kanya [Actually, they have no case against him, which explains why they are yet to file a case against him],” Ariado explained, referring to NFA authorities.

“Maliwanag na labag sa batas at arbitrary ang ginawa nilang biglaang pagpapasara ng bodega ni Jojo, dahil wala namang sapat na dahilan para gawin iyon [It’s clear that they violated the law, and the order to padlock his warehouse without due process was arbitrarily done],” he added.

Earlier, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima revealed that it was President Benigno Aquino 3rd himself who ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to act on the extortion complaint filed by Soliman against the NFA administrator.

NBI Director Virgilio Mendez said they are working on the case and awaiting counter-affidavits of Juan and Galang, prior to submitting their recommendations.

A number of NFA employees said Soliman and his family are operating a legitimate rice business and within the bounds of the law.

Serafin Manalili, former general manager of NFA Bulacan, was quoted as saying the Solimans enjoy a good working relationship with their peers in the industry as well as with the NFA.

He added that Soliman’s firm Fujiso Grains has been doing business with the NFA for several decades already, and that they did not encounter any problem with it through all these years.

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