House vows to continue monitoring prices of onion, rice

Speaker Martin Romualdez on Thursday vowed that the House of Representatives would continue monitoring the prices of onions, rice and other agricultural products. Romualdez made the commitment as he commended the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for filing charges against those behind the alleged manipulation of onion prices in the country. Romualdez said the filing of criminal and administrative charges 'is a product in part of our extensive investigation.' He said a four-month investigation conducted by the House committee on agriculture succeeded in unmasking the individuals involved in the cartel that was responsible in the hoarding and price manipulation of onion. 'We welcome this result and we expect prosecutors to make the charges stick. We will continue to monitor prices and we will not hesitate to exercise our power of oversight by conducting an investigation and prodding agencies so we can protect the public from high prices and inflation,' he added. Romualdez said the congressional hearings resulted in the drastic drop of onion prices from PHP700 to PHP160 per kilo. The NBI has filed hoarding, falsification and profiteering charges against Bonena Multipurpose Cooperative (Bonena) officials Israel Reguyal, Mary Ann dela Rosa and Victor dela Rosa Jimenez. Meanwhile, the NBI has also filed charges of violation of Republic Act 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) against Department of Agriculture (DA) Assistant Secretary Kristine Evangelista, Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Service (AMAS) officer-in-charge Junibert de Sagun and Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) director Gerald Panganiban. Romualdez expressed dismay over the alleged involvement of DA officials in onion price manipulation. 'As public officers, we are expected to protect our people, not to make them suffer from abusive and illegal practices,' he said. Romualdez urged the DOJ and NBI to run after other officials and private citizens suspected of participation in price manipulation and hoarding of onions, rice and other basic staples. The cases involved 8,000 bags of onion in December 2022 transacted with the Food Terminals Inc. (FTI) in Taguig City investigated by the NBI. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. earlier ordered law enforcement agencies to go after speculators and hoarders of onions, after prices soared to nearly PHP800 per kilo even as farmgate prices were only below PHP20 at the time.

Source: Philippines News Agency