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NFA officials under probe urged to take voluntary leave of absence

MANILA: Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. on Friday urged National Food Authority (NFA) officials being investigated over the alleged improper sale of NFA buffer stock rice at a subsidized price to take a voluntary leave of absence (LOA).

In a statement, Laurel said the concerned officials should allow the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) investigating panel to review and assess the matter “without hindrance.”

“The best thing is, and I strongly advise them, to take a leave of absence… at least the heads, the accused, and the accuser,’ he said.

Laurel, however, assured that anyone is presumed innocent, considering the exchanges of allegations within the NFA.

“Until proven guilty, everyone is innocent. But this internal investigation is very important so let’s give it time,” he added.

The agricultural chief further said that the probe is just the first step and DA’s succeeding actions would follow once the investigation results are out.

Although Laurel did not set a deadline, his office said
it expects a swift and accurate assessment result.

Earlier, NFA Assistant Administrator for Operations Lemuel Pagayunan disclosed to the People’s Television Network the alleged selling of 75,000 bags of NFA rice without the conduct of public bidding.

This allegedly involved more than PHP93.7 million worth of NFA rice, sold to select millers and traders at the price of PHP25 per kg.

The DA, meanwhile, said NFA executives claim the sale followed procedures and denied any irregularity.