Beyond Buzzwords: Transforming Philippine Agriculture!

Statement of Sec. William D. Dar on allegations of extortion against DA-Bureau of Plant Industry officials

Author: DA Communications Group | 1 June 2022

The Department of Agriculture remains firm in its policy of NO TO CORRUPTION!

We call upon everyone in the “OneDA Family,” particularly those who transact business as part of their functions at the DA regulatory agencies to come forward if they have knowledge of any misconduct, especially of corruption, and present evidence so we can act on them with urgency.

The DA remains steadfast in our drive against graft and corruption.

As Secretary of Agriculture, I condemn in the strongest terms smuggling and all other forms of illegal entry of all agricultural, fishery and meat products into the country — as these compete directly with the produce of our farmers, fishers and food producers, depriving them of much-needed livelihood and incomes.

Yesterday, we attended a House of Representatives hearing of the Food and Agriculture Committee to discuss House Resolution No. 2282 which seeks to streamline the processes of all regulatory agencies in combating smuggling.

It appeared during the hearing and subsequent press reports that some DA officials are being accused of extortion by an importing entity, the Cambridge Consumers’ Cooperative, which in turn faces allegations of technical smuggling.

As part of our thorough investigation on the matter, we studied the complaint and administrative records of Ms. Jesusa Ascutia of the Bureau of Plant Industry Quarantine Office, the one being accused of extortion by Cambridge.

The 2022 extortion complaint filed by Cambridge was dismissed by the Manila City Prosecutor’s Office due to insufficient evidence, quoting its resolution: “The records show that the case is bereft of evidence that would prove the validity of the complaint.”

As a backgrounder of Ms. Ascutia’s record also in the Civil Service Commission (CSC), she had appealed to the CSC in 2017 her reassignment to the DA Office of the Secretary, which was supposedly based on certain allegations of corruption. The CSC decided on her favor due to lack of merit for reassignment, thus ordering her reinstatement at the BPI.

This year, Ma. Wilma Ocampo of Cambridge Consumers Cooperative filed an extortion complaint at the Manila City Prosecutor’s Office against Ms. Ascutia and her team. The complaint of Ms. Ocampo was a result of the apprehension of their shipment of two container vans of vegetables, which Ms. Ascutia and BPI Quarantine Team found misdeclared. The complaint was dismissed by the Manila City Prosecutor’s Office due to insufficient evidence, as mentioned above.

In closing, the DA Legal Service continues its thorough internal investigation on the allegations, including possible lapses and administrative violations.

We reiterate our drive to purge this agency completely of corruption. ###

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