Speaker Romualdez urges authorities to pursue House lead, build airtight case vs. onion cartel

Speaker Romualdez urges authorities to pursue House lead, build airtight case vs. onion cartel

Photo courtesy of ABS-CBN News

MANILA — Speaker Martin Romualdez on Sunday urged concerned authorities to pursue the leads uncovered by the House probe into the alleged onion cartel and file appropriate charges to put an end to their illegal scheme that has brought suffering to the Filipino people.

The Speaker aired this call after Marikina City 2nd District Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo named interconnected personalities and business entities involved in the onion trade that—taken together with their operation, resources, and influence—bear the hallmarks of a cartel.

“I call on the concerned authorities like the National Bureau of Investigation, the Philippine Competition Commission, and the Department of Agriculture to work together to stamp out this cartel and spare our people from further suffering caused by their unscrupulous trade practices,” Speaker Romualdez said.

“The extensive hearings conducted by the House have already provided good leads which our authorities can follow to build an airtight case and prosecute those involved,” he added.

Speaker Romualdez noted that, among others, unfair trade practices may be prosecuted under the Philippine Competition Act (PCA), which penalizes businesses found to have engaged in anti-competitive agreements with a fine of up to P100 million, and imprisonment of up to 7 years.

The fines may be tripled if the trade of basic necessities, including agricultural products identified by the Price Act, is involved in the cartel or abuse of dominance violations.

Speaker Romualdez said the House of Representatives remains committed to the task of protecting our citizens against unfair trade practices such as price fixing of onion and other agricultural products.

“The Filipino people deserve to have access to affordable food. We will not rest until we achieve this goal,” he stressed.

It could be recalled that when prices of onion surged to over P700 a kilo in December last year Speaker Romualdez called for a congressional investigation in aid of legislation to address the issue.

Meanwhile, Speaker Romualdez likewise commended Quimbo for her painstaking work that led to the unmasking of onion cartel key players and the Committee on Agriculture and Food that conducted the congressional investigation.

“Rep. Quimbo lived up to her name and did a stellar job. Her expose is a major step forward in our efforts to bring down the prices of this essential commodity,” Speaker Romualdez said.

“But credit must also be given to the Committee on Agriculture and Food, led by Chairman and Quezon 1st District Rep. Wilfredo Mark Enverga, for its persistence in the effort to get to the bottom of this controversy,” he added.

In her statement, Quimbo tagged Lilia or Leah Cruz as “Sibuyas Queen” who is at the center of her onion cartel theory, the Philippine VIEVA Group of Companies (PhilVIEVA), and its allied firms.

“Sa madaling salita, hawak sa leeg ng PhilVIEVA ang buong supply chain mula umpisa, which is farming hanggang dulo which is retail (In simpler terms, PhilVIEVA holds by the neck the entire supply chain from the beginning, which is farming until the end which is retail),” she said. (ai/mtvn)

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