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Ombudsman lifts suspension of 72 NFA officials

MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the Ombudsman has lifted the six-month preventive suspension it imposed on 72 of 139 officials of the National Food Authority (NFA) in connection with the allegedly anomalous sale of the government’s rice buffer stock to favored private traders.

In a 23-page order dated May 10, the ombudsman said the primary purpose of a preventive suspension is to preserve documents and pieces of evidence, which may be under the control or custody of the respondents.

Since it has obtained these documents or pieces of evidence from concerned NFA officials, the ombudsman said the continued preventive suspension of respondents “is no longer necessary.”

“They are ordered reinstated effective April 15,” the ombudsman’s order read.

Although it was not stated in the order, the reinstatement date also pertained to the date of restitution of the salaries and allowances of suspended NFA officials.

The order was approved on May 13 by Special Prosecutor Edilberto Sandoval on behalf of Ombudsman Samuel Martires.

The office of Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. was directed to implement the reinstatement order.

Ordered reinstated were warehouse supervisors in Central Luzon with 16; Soccsksargen, 14; Northern Mindanao, nine; Central Visayas, eight; Bicol, six; Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and Zamboanga peninsula with four each; Calabarzon, Caraga and Western Visayas with three each and Mimaropa, two.

On March 1, the ombudsman imposed a six-month preventive suspension on NFA administrator Roderico Bioco, assistant administrator for operations John Robert Hermano and 137 other officials and employees who are facing administrative charges of grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

A week after, a similar order was imposed on newly appointed NFA officer-in-charge Piolito Santos and acting department manager for operation and coordination Jonathan Yazon, who were added as respondents in the administrative charges.

The ombudsman earlier lifted the suspension order against 23 warehouse supervisors after obtaining documents from them.

It clarified that all warehouse