Mongaya: Vindication?

Anol Mongaya

IS the decision of the National Food Authority Council (NFAC) to import rice through rice traders, with the support of President Rodrigo Duterte, vindication for a senior Malacañang aide who was unceremoniously dismissed in April for supposedly pushing such a policy?

Looking at it from a policy level, its turning out that former undersecretary Halmen Valdez was right all along. In fact, she was merely representing Cabinet Secretary Jun Evasco who headed the NFAC.

The NFAC had, among others, rejected the “corruption prone” government-to-government importation scheme pushed by NFA administrator Jason Aquino. Instead, the council approved the G2P or government to private importation mode. Then it approved more importations through private traders under a new 2017 Minimum Access Volume importation program.

In addition, the NFAC ordered Aquino to issue import permits to traders who imported under the 2016 MAV program but the shipments arrived beyond Feb. 28, 2017.

To recall, Aquino had refused to issue import permits in his efforts to end the MAV program and pave the way for the G2G scheme. As a result, legitimate imports that arrived in March was apprehended and unfairly treated as smuggle rice.

This means Cebu customs authorities need to release the imported rice they seized at the Cebu International Port (CIP). Of course, the import permits have begun to arrive Thursday.

That afternoon, I learned Customs Cebu Deputy Collector Lemuel Romero, Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS) OIC Verne Enciso, and Cebu Customs Police chief Capt. Rolando Garcia was still meeting on this development. District Collector Elvira Cruz was on leave.

The way I see it, however, vindication for Valdez should be her reinstatement and the dismissal of NFA’s Aquino. On second thought, Valdez might just decide not to return to the snake pit.

Curiously, Customs Commissioner Nick Faeldon verbally ordered local customs officials during a surprise inspection of the rice shipments last Sunday to facilitate the process towards auctioning the supposed seized cargo. This was a day before he left for Indonesia.

Apparently, he did not expect the NFAC to act on Monday. He might even be unaware of the NFAC developments because he still posted in his Facebook Wednesday about the BOC Cebu apprehensions.

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Four young lady lawyers at the customs office in Manila, one of them a Cebuana and a former FHM model, were supposed to attend a weeklong training program at the UP Law Center. The attendance record listed them as present. But their actual presence?

Many customs functionaries, division chiefs, and senior officials are disgusted by what the four lawyers did. Nagpakaulaw lang, said one. The four are facing possible disbarment.

One of them, said the Manila grapevine, holds the key to a top official’s heart.

(anol_cebu in Twitter)