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Ex-Agri chief Alcala pleads not guilty to graft raps over garlic cartel scam

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Former Department of Agriculture (DA) secretary Proceso Alcala on Friday (May 24) pleaded not guilty of graft for allegedly allowing a garlic monopoly.

Alcala made the plea during arraignment proceedings before the Sandiganbayan 3rd Division.

The Office of the Ombudsman filed the graft case after finding probable cause to indict him along with 23 other persons.

Records show that in 2013 Alcala named as chairman of the National Garlic Action Team (NGAT) Lilia Cruz, chair and controlling owner of Vegetable Importers, Exporters, Vendors Association of the Philippines (VIEVA).

The NGAT is consultative body of the Department of Agriculture (DA) over policies concerning garlic importation and supplies.

The Ombudsman said the appointment allowed Cruz to gain access to vital information which led to VIEVA-affiliated trading firms and cooperatives to secure a majority of the import permits (IPs) granted by the DA.

The Ombudsman said this eventually resulted in VIEVA’s monopolization of garlic importation and saw spikes in garlic prices in 2014.

In 2014, prices of imported garlic soared from P260 to 400 per kilomgram compared to the P165 to 170 prices from 2010 to 2013.

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