Palace probes 'illegal, unauthorized' order on sugar importation

Malacañang is now investigating the unauthorized signing of an order allowing the importation of additional sugar supply, calling the resolution "illegal."

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles (Photo courtesy of the Office of Press Secretary)

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles disclosed that the President did not even convene a meeting to authorize such a move by the government amid the lack of supply and surging prices of the commodity.

"This resolution is illegal," Angeles said in a press briefing on Thursday, Aug. 11.

She explained that President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. as the chairman of the Sugar Regulatory Board sets the date of any meetings or convening of the board and its agenda but no such meeting was ordered by him.

"No such meeting was authorized by the President nor such a resolution likewise was not authorized," Angeles said.

The Palace also called the issuance of the unauthorized order as a haste decision made despite the administration's stance in the importation of agricultural goods.

The Sugar Regulatory Board Resolution No. 4, which authorized the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar on top of what had already been imported in May 2022, was signed on behalf of President Marcos and was later uploaded on the Sugar Regulatory Administration website. It was later taken down.

The Palace then denied the President's approval, saying he did not sign such a document.

"It appears that the resolution was signed for and on behalf of the President by Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian. He was not authorized to sign such a resolution because the President did not authorize the importation," Angeles said.

Angeles also denied that it was an issue of miscommunication as the President did not even approve the convening of the board in the first place.

"No. You don’t convene the Sugar Regulatory Board in the absence of the President and in the absence of any such approval on his part. He didn't approve the convening. You can only convene the board with the assent, explicit assent ,of the President and he didn't make such an agreement," Angeles said.

The only action the Palace took before the issuance of the "illegal" resolution was the verbal directive from Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez to create an importation plan which will later be studied by the President.

"So it was a directive actually. It was verbally issued so that the President can make a determination later on whether or not the importation is actually warranted," she said.

The Press Secretary said while the investigation is already ongoing, no one was given a preventive suspension order yet.

"An investigation is ongoing to determine whether any acts that would cause the President to lose trust and confidence in his officials can be found or if there is malice or negligence involved. In such a case if such findings are made then the only determination left would be how many heads are going to roll," she said.

The Palace stressed that the administration takes importation as a sensitive matter, thus the "resolution should not have been issued with such haste as it appears to have been made."

"Importations are a sensitive matter particularly with regard to agricultural importations. Sugar is one such importation which we take great care with. It is a balancing act. The importation has to be carefully studied to protect both the consumer against the rising prices of basic commodities while ensuring at the same time that we do not destroy the local industry," Angeles stated.