House panel vows to unmask onion cartel leaders

House panel vows to unmask onion cartel leaders

MANILA – The House Committee on Agriculture and Food will resume on Tuesday its inquiry into the alleged hoarding of agriculture products, seen to have induced the skyrocketing of prices of onion and other farm products, House Speaker Martin Romualdez said in a statement on Sunday.

Romualdez promised to jail anyone who will lie before the panel, chaired by Quezon 1st District Rep. Mark Enverga.

Lawmakers are working to unmask the unscrupulous financiers and traders behind the onion and vegetable cartel.

They cited in contempt and detained three officials of Argo International Forwarders Inc. for refusing to cooperate with the investigation.

Enverga said the citation for contempt was lifted after the three assured the panel that they would cooperate and submit documents that could help establish price manipulation of onions and provide leads to the identity of the cartel leaders.

“I cannot stress enough for these resource persons the importance of cooperating with the committee. Lie to lawmakers and you will all find yourselves in jail,” Romualdez warned.

He said the committee’s mission is to reduce the prices of onions and dismantle the vegetable cartel.

“We need to lower the prices of onions and decimate the cartel the soonest possible time. And I guarantee the imprisonment of those exploitative and abusive individuals and business owners behind the cartel. Our constituents need an immediate reprieve from the high prices of agricultural goods,” he added.

He warned that the House panel will not spare anyone who connived with unscrupulous traders, even those from the government, saying they are equally guilty of causing the suffering of Filipinos.

Romualdez said he expects the cooperation of Argo president and general manager Efren Zoleta Jr., operations manager John Patrick Sevilla and legal counsel Jan Ryan Cruz in identifying the hoarders.

“Let your detention by the committee be a lesson. If you will not tell us the truth, we will send you to jail,” he said. (PNA)

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