Philippines suspends over 130 officials over rice sale scandal

This internal investigation is just the first step, the agriculture department will act based on the investigation results.

05 Mar 2024 03:17pm
Illustrative purposes
Illustrative purposes

MANILA, Philippines - The Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the preventive suspension of the National Food Authority (NFA) head and 138 other officials and employees for their alleged involvement in a sale of rice buffer stock, Philippine Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel said Monday.

Laurel said the order started Monday while an investigation is underway to see if the accusations are true.

An NFA official has accused several agency executives of improperly disposing of rice buffer stocks without bidding, and at a price allegedly disadvantageous to the government. The NFA executives deny any impropriety, claiming the sale followed procedures.

On Friday, Laurel suggested that NFA officials under probe should take a voluntary leave of absence to give investigators a free hand to do their work.

"This internal investigation is just the first step," said Laurel, adding that the agriculture department will act based on the investigation results.

The controversy erupted as Filipinos grappled with high rice prices. The Philippines continues to struggle to lower the cost of rice despite an ample supply of the national staple.

Rice inflation accelerated to 22.6 per cent in January from 19.6 per cent in December 2023, reaching a fresh high in 14 years for the food staple's inflation rate, or the highest since March 2009, when rice inflation hit 22.9 per cent. - XINHUA

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