SAGIP Party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta confronted alleged "Sibuyas Queen" Lilia Cruz on Tuesday, Feb. 14 regarding the alleged bouncing checks that the latter used in the past to pay onion farmers.
Marcoleta, one of the interpellators during the House Committee on Agriculture and Food's public inquiry on the alleged hoarding of agricultural goods, said to Cruz's face that he had 30 such checks.
It was Cruz's second appearance as a resource person in the panel inquiry, which has been branded as a priority of House Speaker Martin Romualdez.
During Marcoleta's questioning, Cruz, a self-described agri-preneur, confirmed to the committee that she had made transactions with the farmers of Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magsisibuyas ng Nueva Ecija (KASAMNE) from 2014 to 2016.
“Meron akong hawak na mga tseke na inisyu mo o yung ahente mo, pero tumalbog lahat (I have in my possession checks that you or you agent issued , but they all bounced)," Marcoleta told Cruz.
A bouncing check is a check for which there are not enough funds in the bank customer's account to cover it. This causes the bank to decline encashing the check.
“Bakit ganun ka kasi makipagnegosyo sa kanila? Kawawa ang mga farmers kakasangkapanin niyo sila...iisyuhan mo ng tseke tapos tatalbog (Why do you business with them like that? The farmers are left pitiful, you use them...you issue them bouncing checks)," the veteran solon said.
Cruz--whose name has been implicated in alleged smuggling and hoarding of onions and garlic throughout the years--answered by saying that she had already "settled" the declined checks.
It didn't help that Marcoleta caught Cruz smiling in the middle of his questioning. The former deputy speaker called the woman out on this.
“OK naman na ngumiti ka, kaya lang seryosong usapan ito eh (It's OK for you to smile, but this is a serious discussion)," the SAGIP lawmaker said.
But when Marcoleta pressed Cruz on the issue of the bouncing checks, the latter changed tactics and chose to not give any details. “I invoke my right to remain silent your honor," she said.
To this, Marcoleta said: “Wala namang masama sa tinatanong ko eh. Nasa sayo kung gusto mong sagutin pero nakikinig ang taumbayan...pero kung ako ikaw magsalita ka nalang (There's nothing wrong with what I'm asking about. It's up to you if you want to answer, but our countrymen are listening...but if I were you, I'd speak up)."
“On record your honor, meron po kaming proof na settled na ito your honor (we have proof that these have been settled, your honor),” answered Cruz, who also goes by the moniker Leah.
The solon chided Cruz for invoking her right to remain silent on such a question, especially if she had nothing to hide. The agri-preneur apologized to the panel, saying she could no longer recall some of the things the solons have been asking.
During the previous hearing of the panel, Cruz issued a statement denying her involvement in the smuggling of agricultural goods, despite the hearing being on the issue of hoarding.