By Genalyn Kabiling
The country’s embattled rice chief is not yet off the hook.
The Office of the Ombudsman is expected to act on any complaint that could be filed against outgoing National Food Authority (NFA) administrator Jason Aquino, Malacañang said Thursday.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque maintained that Aquino could still be held liable if any wrongdoing is proven despite his offer to leave the agency.
“The resignation of anyone not just Jason Aquino will not extinguish criminal or administrative liabilities if there are any. Hindi naman big sabihin na kapag ikaw ay nag-resign wala ka ng pananagutan [It does not mean that if you reason, you won’t be held accountable anymore],” Roque said during a press conference in Malacañang.
“Kung mayroon gustong magreklamo [If anyone wants to file a complaint], as I understand that the House itself has classified an act of administrator Aquino as technical malversation, I’m sure if they will file the proper complaint, it will be acted upon by the Ombudsman,” he added.
Asked if President Duterte was considering legal action against Aquino, Roque said for now, the President was focused on looking for new NFA chief.
“It’s valid until now. Ang importante kay President makanahap ng epektibong kapalit para kay Jason Aquino [What’s important for the President is to find an effective replacement of Jason Aquino],” he said.
The President earlier announced that Aquino has offered to be relieved from his post because he was tired and could no longer cope with the workings in the NFA. “I will scout for a new one,” Duterte said over government television last Tuesday.
Some groups have demanded the resignation of Aquino for alleged mismanagement that led to the shortage of government rice and consequently the price hikes of the commodity in the market.
A group has reportedly filed a graft complaint against Aquino for allegedly diverting P5.1 billion intended to buy grain last year to pay off the agency’s debts instead. The fund misuse supposedly resulted in the soaring prices of rice and corn in the country.
The complaint was filed by the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag) before the Office of the Ombudsman late last month.