By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki
Former Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Proceso Alcala is facing another graft charge before the Sandiganbayan in relation to the reported manipulation of the country’s garlic cartel from 2010 to 2014.
Alcala was charged before the anti-graft court’s Fifth Division for violating Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act alongside Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) Director Clarito Barron as well as BPI Division Chiefs Merle Palacpac and Luben Marasigan.
Garlic traders Lilia “Lea” Cruz, Edmond Caguinguin, Rolan Galvez, Rochelle Diaz, Ma. Jackilou Ilagan, Jon Dino De Vera, Napoleon Baldueza, Jose Ollegue, Laila Matabang, Angelita Flores, Gaudioso Diato, Denia Matabang, Jose Angulo, Jr., Raffy Torres, Mary Grace Sebastian, Renato Francisco, Rolando Manangan, Orestes Salon, Prudencio Ruedas and Shiela Marry Dela Cruz face the same charge.
In the charge sheet filed by Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer III Bonifacio Mandrilla, Alcala and his 23 co-accused were faulted for giving manifest partiality to PHILVIEVA, VIEVA, Tumana Trading, R.M. Galvez Agri Trading, Purple Moon Trading, Bee Jee Trading, Touch Down Trading, A.G.R. Trading, La Reina Food Trading, Yom Trading Corporation, KASAMNE, KBS, MAGRO-MPC, and Shelmarie Enterprises.
On July 24, 2013, Alcala created the National Garlic Action Team (NGAT) comprised of individuals from public and private sectors involved in the trading and growing of garlic.
The team served as the DA’s consultative body on policies and concerns of the garlic production and supply program.
Cruz was appointed as chairperson, which enabled her to have access to vital information. As a result, Cruz’s group VIEVA secured most of the Import Permits (IPs).
There were a total of 8,810 applications granted IPs. Out of these, 5,022 were issued to PHILVIEVA, VIEVA, and VIEVA-affiliated importers despite the suspension of the issuance of IP from July 2012 to October 2013.
When NGAT found it necessary to allow the importation of 58,240 Mt of garlic or the issuance of 1,165 IPs at 50 Mt per clearance to satisfy the market requirement from November 2013 to March 2014, Alcala approved and referred NGAT resolutions to Barron, a member of NGAT, for appropriate action.
Because of their actions, Cruz was allegedly able to monopolize the supply of garlic allowing her to dictate the prices of garlic in the market. By January to July 2014, the price of imported garlic soared, ranging from P260 to P400 per kg from its average price of P165 to P170 per kg in 2010 to 2013. Meanwhile, the prices of native garlic ranged from P250 to P450 from April to June 2014.
Their bail bond has been set at P30,000 each.