By Billy Begas
Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. admonished officials of the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) for allegedly using President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as a “shock-absorber” for their failure to facilitate the timely importation of onions last year.
“You are using the President as shock-absorber of your errors,” Barzaga told BPI Director Glenn Panganiban during Wednesday’s hearing of the House Committee on Agriculture and Food.
Barzaga cited the failure of BPI to have the certificate of necessity to import (CNI) signed by ranking officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA) last August 2022.
The CNI will allow the importation of onions during the non-harvest months to ensure a stable supply.
“Alam mo na pag tag-ulan walang ani ng sibuyas… Alam mo na pagdating ng September, October, November, December tag-ulan walang produce ang ating local farmer. Kung alam mo na ano ang dapat nating gawin para hindi tayo mawalan ng stock ng sibuyas sa merkado?” Barzaga asked.
Panganiban replied, “Sir, we consider yung importation.”
“May ginawang CNI ang iyong predecessor, pagkatapos hindi mo alam hanggang ngayon,” said Barzaga in reference to earlier statement of Panganiban that he does not know about the CNI issued by his predecessor.
“Yan ang sinasabi ni Cong. (Rodante) Marcoleta. Baka andami mong trabaho hindi mo na magampanan. And now you are blaming the President,” Barzaga added.
Panganiban was quick to reply, “Sir, no.”
“O, sinong may kasalanan bakit hindi na-approve yan (CNI)…. Anong nangyari dun sa sinabi mong CNI?” Barzaga asked.
Panganiban replied, “Sir hindi po naaksyunan kasi nagpalit po nun ng undersecretaries.”
Barzaga then said, “Hindi mo ba sinabi, ‘teka muna urgent to magmamahal ang sibuyas’. Wala kayong ginawa, inaction. And inaction is a ground for disciplinary action. Kung yan eh finallow-up nyo tapos sinasabi nyo transition. Sinisisi nyo ang ating Pangulo?
Panganiban stressed, “We never said that po.”
“O sinong may kasalanan… Sino ang may kasalanan at hindi na-approve yan. Otherwise kung na-approve yan wala tayong mataas na presyo ng sibuyas….,” Barzaga continued.
Panganiban said he formally endorsed the CNI to the office of then DA Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian.
“Did you make any follow-up?” Barzaga asked to which Panganiban answered, “Sir nag-change na nga po, sir.”
Agusan del Sur Rep. Eddiebong Plaza interjected: “Mr. Chair ang masama nito yung Pangulo ang tinatamaan” to which Barzaga agreed.
“Yan ang aking sinasabi. You are using the President as shock-absorber of your errors,” Barzaga said.
Panganiban disagrees. “No sir. Sir kung may nagkulang siguro, baka kami nagkulang kami sa follow-up sa Office of the Secretary sir.”
Barzaga then stressed, “Hindi naman bago ito, since time immemorial alam natin pag… tag-ulan walang ani ng sibuyas. Tapos hindi kayo nag-issue ng CNI and you are blaming the President impliedly, because you are in the process of transition.”
The committee is conducting an investigation into the alleged hoarding and price manipulation that led to the significant increase in onion prices in 2022.