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Complaint filed at OP exposes ‘mafia’ at NFA

MANILA, Philippines —  The unraveling of the alleged “mafia” inside the National Food Authority started with the filing of a formal complaint at the Office of the President accusing NFA Administrator Roderico Bioco of being behind the alleged questionable sale of rice to some traders.

Documents obtained by The STAR showed that the OP received the letter complaint on Feb. 13 from NFA Assistant Administrator for operations Lemuel Pagayunan who alleged that Bioco issued memoranda allowing the sale of 75,000 bags of NFA rice totaling to P93.75 million to certain traders.

“Upon further verification, there were similar dispositions of stocks made in 2023. Based on the foregoing documents, Administrator Bioco has sold to G4Rice Mill Corp. and NBK San Pedro Rice Mill, NFA’s ‘deteriorating or aging stocks.’ However, I also received information that the stocks sold to these rice traders were not actually deteriorating but were treated and fit for consumption,” Pagayunan said in his letter.

Pagayunan’s allegations prompted Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. to form a panel to investigate the alleged corruption at the NFA.

At the same time, Pagayunan cited a memorandum issued by then Assistant Administrator for operations John Robert Hermano on Nov. 13, 2023 instructing that the stocks will be rebagged in containers without NFA markings prior to selling as commercial rice.

The letter was addressed to NFA Region 1 regional manager (RM) Lolita Sanedrin; NFA Region 2 RM Miguel Tecson; former NFA Region 4 RM Leo Damole, and NFA Region 5 RM Osmundo Guinto Jr.

“I submit the following irregularities, if not violations of rules and laws, involving the above disposition of NFA stocks. There is no showing that the above disposition of NFA stocks have been approved by the NFA Council, being the Governing Board of the NFA,” Pagayunan said.

He said that under Presidential Decree 4, the NFA, through the NFA Council, has the power to sell, lease, mortgage or dispose of property.

“The above transactions were only authorized by Administrator Bioco and Hermano, in connivance with the concerned RMs,” Pagayunan said.

He added that while NFA may validly dispose stocks before the