Yap not fit to lead DA, says solon

By Philip Tubeza

Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: October 20, 2006



ARTHUR YAP is “unfit” to be agriculture secretary and should not have been reappointed to his former post, a party-list lawmaker said yesterday.
Akbayan Representative Loretta Ann Rosales said the tax evasion case against Yap and his father might have been dismissed, “but there are far graver issues and more important questions that he has failed to satisfactorily answer,” including a graft charge filed by murdered journalist Marlene Esperat.
“Congress should exercise its oversight function to question this appointment,” Rosales said.

Malacañang announced on Wednesday night that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had appointed Yap, director general of the Presidential Management Staff, to the top post at the Department of Agriculture in place of the yet to be confirmed Domingo Panganiban.

Yap had held the agriculture portfolio from July 9, 2004, to June 30, 2005, when he quit in connection with the tax evasion case that was subsequently dismissed for insufficient evidence.

Rosales said Yap’s confirmation by the Commission on Appointments should be deferred pending investigation of the case filed by Esperat in 2004 involving a purported P432-million fertilizer scam when Yap was administrator of the National Food Authority, and for the alleged bungled importation in 2002 of P5.8 billion worth of rice from India when he was head of Philippine International Trading Corp.

“With these stark instances of incompetence behind him, why is Yap being reassigned to the DA? He is unfit for the position and still needs to explain his culpability, through a possible legislative inquiry, for the rice deal and the fertilizer scam,” the lawmaker said.

‘Obviously political’

Rosales also demanded to know why Panganiban was being replaced as agriculture secretary.

“[Panganiban] enjoys widespread respect at the least for being a no-nonsense apolitical bureaucrat, and his tenure has so far been quiet,” she said. “So why is the steady boat being rocked with this unnecessary and obviously political move?”

Senator Edgardo Angara also said the replacement of Panganiban at the DA and his transfer to the National Anti-Poverty Commission smacked of Malacañang’s “lack of basic courtesy” toward members of its own team.
But Angara said the dismissal was more a loss to the government than to Panganiban’s career: “I was dismayed and greatly disappointed, but I felt more sorry for the government than for [him] because he is one of the most knowledgeable and extremely capable in the agriculture sector. He is a great loss to our government.”

The senator added that the replacement of competent officials like Panganiban showed why the Philippines was continually losing its competitiveness in the global market.

Angara admitted that he was among those who had recommended Panganiban for the agriculture portfolio.

He said his friend had served as his No. 1 undersecretary when he was DA chief during the Estrada administration.

He pointed out that Panganiban had been a career agriculture professional since the Marcos era and had an impeccable record.

“He was my operations man and, during my tenure at the DA, we had a record growth rate specifically in rice production. When he was agriculture secretary in 2005, agriculture growth was also high, and those records were not accidental,” Angara said.


Militant groups saw something suspicious in Yap’s reappointment to the DA.
“Malacañang needs Yap to orchestrate another scam, bigger than the P728-million Ginintuang Masaganang Ani (GMA) fertilizer fund scam,” said Danilo Ramos, secretary general of the farmers’ alliance Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, in reference to the purported use of fertilizer funds for Ms Arroyo’s election in 2004.

“The funds to look out for are the seeds fund for the GMA program and the P3.5 billion worth of rice to be imported, supposedly for schoolchildren,” Ramos said.

The rice farmers’ group R1 said it appeared that Malacañang had merely used Panganiban to allow Yap’s tax evasion case to cool down.

“The farmers do not see a new beginning for the agriculture sector,” said Jessica Reyes Cantos, R1 lead convenor.

Cantos said that for a change, Ms Arroyo could do the farmers a favor by appointing an agriculture secretary for his/her commitment to improve the farmers’ livelihood, and not his/her political affiliation. With reports from Juliet Labog-Javellana and Christine A. Gaylican




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