By Genalyn Kabiling
Malacañang is puzzled with the continued stay of National Food Authority (NFA) administrator Jason Aquino in office even after President Duterte has accepted his resignation.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said the NFA Deputy Administrator should have taken over Aquino to temporarily lead the agency pending appointment of a permanent administrator.
The President earlier announced he would appoint Army Chief Lt.Gen Rolando Bautista as the next NFA administrator after Aquino offered to resign. Bautista is expected to assume his new post when he retires from the military next month.
“Ang sabi ni Presidente tinatanggap na niya iyong pagbibitiw dahil hindi na nga kakayanin ni Jason Aquino. So ang alam ko po wala na siya, pero nagtataka nga po ako, kahapon lamang may nagsabi sa akin na umupo pa siya sa NFA Council [The President said he has accepted the resignation because Jason Aquino could not handle it anymore so I know he was no longer there but I am puzzled why he was still part of the NFA Council meeting],” Roque said in a radio interview.
Roque said Aquino even reportedly opposed the planned importation of the Philippine International Trading Corp. of cheap rice to boost the country’s supply during the council meeting.
“Ang sa akin lang is tinanggap na po iyong pagbibitiw, eh bakit nag-a-attend pa ng NFA Council [His resignation has been accepted so why will he attend the NFA Council meeting?],” he said.
“Kaya nga po ang sinabi ko iyong Deputy Administrator na ang dapat namamahala habang hindi pa po pupuwedeng maging NFA Administrator itong si General Bautista [That’s why I said the Deputy Administrator must lead the agency while Gen. (Rolando) Bautista cannot yet assume the NFA Administrator post],” he said.
“Dahil wala naman tayong tinatawag na power vacuum – iyong Deputy Administrator ang dapat na tumatayong administrador [Because we don’t have a power vacuum, the Deputy Administrator must be the administrator],” he added.
Roque also noted that the President has also implemented a reorganization in the NFA when he returned its supervision to the Department of Agriculture.
“Ang hepe na po ng Council ay si (Agriculture) Secretary (Emmanuel) Piñol. So wala po dapat power vacuum [Secretary Piñol is the head of the Council so there shouldn’t be any power vacuum],” he said.
Nonetheless, Roque said he would clarify the matter with the President to address any confusion.
Piñol earlier claimed that Aquino remained NFA administrator until Bautista assumes his post.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, however, has questioned Aquino’s stay in office even after being dismissed by the President. She has accused Aquino and other officials of allegedly accepted P2 billion every year from the “tara” system” over rice imports.