Congressmen who took part in the House Committee on Agriculture and Food's inquiry on the alleged hoarding of onions and other agricultural products were left frustrated and confused Wednesday, Feb. 8.
This, after the solons couldn't get the answers and information that they wanted to hear from the attending resource person of government agencies like the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
The agency officials either couldn't answer the lawmakers' question directly or didn't have the necessary data with them.
Many of them said they would just bring the information being asked of them by the solons "next Tuesday", referring to the next scheduled hearing on the issue on Feb.14.
Committee chairman and Quezon 1st district Rep. Wilfrido Mark Enverga did mention during the proceedings that the hearing was held on short notice, but at the same them also stressed that it was House Speaker Martin Romualdez's priority to get to the bottom of the soaring prices of onions, garlic, and other basic commodities.
The hearing itself began in an odd way after a resource person from the private sector, Lilia Leah Cruz,, a self-professed agri-preneur, read a prepared statement to the panel denying her role in the smuggling of onions.
The panel's focus for the particular hearing was on hoarding, not smuggling.
"Willing po ako sa kaya ng aking kaalaman, willing po akong makipag-cooperate dito po sa ating committee hearing (To the best of my abilities, I'm willing to cooperate here in this committee hearing)," she said.
Eventually, the panel asked Cruz if she would be willing to speak in an executive session given her apparent knowledge about the traders involved in the onion and vegetable industry as a whole. She replied by saying that she would "consult with her family first".
During the three-hour hearing, Pangasinan 3rd district Rep. Ma. Rachel Arenas vented: "Nakakalungkot because alam ho natin, hindi ko kailangang sabihin, mayroon pong hindi nagsasabi ng totoo (It's sad because we know, and I don't have to say this, some people here aren't telling the truth)."
"With the inconsistencies of the documents also given to us, hindi ko alam kung nililito nila tayo (I don't know if they're just trying to confuse us)," she noted.
Marikina City 2nd district Rep. Stella Quimbo also called out Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) Michael Aguinaldo for his absence in the hearing.
According to the economist, the PCC could have helped confirm or deny her suspicion that there's "collusion" between the traders of agricultural goods like onions within the same area.
"Kung dalawa ang posible na supplier sa isang lugar, mag-hoarding lang yung isa--ah ang gagawin ng isa, kung ako yung isa, eh di magbebenta ako ng minus one peso. Mumurahan ko lang ng konti, ang laki na ng kinita ko di ba? (If there are two possible suppliers to own area, and one of them hoards, the other could lower its price by one peso, that's what I would do. I'll reduce price slightly and I'll earn a lot profits right?)
"Kaya sa isang sitwasyon na may hoarding or malamang may hoarding...eh malamang din sa aking pagtingjn, mayroon ding pagsasabwatan (That’s why in a situation of hoarding or possible hoarding...for me, it's likely that there's collusion)," she pointed out.
"Yan ang dahilan kung bakit mabigat ang aking paniniwala na malaki ang responsibilidad dito ng . Kaya ako po ay nalulungkot na tayo ay inindian ng ating chairman...inaabangan natin, hindi siya dumating (That’s the reason why I strongly believe that the PCC has a huge responsibility here. That's why I'm sad that we were stood up by the chairman...we waited but he didn't come)," Quimbo said.
At one point, Quimbo even stood up and handed over to the representative of the Bureau of Plant Industy (BPI) a paper containing the figures the latter needed to respond to the question of a congressman.
The BPI is an attached agency of the DA.
Perhaps Enverga managed to perfectly sum up the hearing when he said at the very end: "Due to lack of data, we could resume this again on Tuesday."