Group denies conspiring wtih NFA in dubious release of rice

In a manifesto given to media today, the Grains Retailers Confederation (GRECON), a partner of the NFA in its rice distribution program, denied they were part of a ‘conspiracy’ led by former NFA provincial manager Anthony Mariano Bernad.

Bernad was sacked following his alleged involvement in the ‘dubious’ release of at least 21,000 bags of imported rice from their warehouse here from March 10 to 14 this year.

The manifesto, signed by 17 GRECON officials from 17 towns in North Cotabato, said the group did not actually receive the rice.

Bernad’s office released to media a copy of the procurement documents which showed that GRECON members allegedly received thousands of bags of imported rice.

Among the supposed recipients was GRECON provincial secretary Sheila Estrada of Kabacan town. NFA’s documents showed she received 3,060 bags of rice from March 6 to 13.

But she denied having received a single bag of imported rice from the NFA.

Estrada and other GRECON members were asked to submit to the NFA office their retail passbooks sometime February this year.

“Bernad invoked his position as the manager and that’s the reason why these GRECON members assented to his demand, although they were a bit hesitant. They believed such procedure was regular and it was a new policy of the NFA,” said the manifesto.

The rice traders were also surprised to know that the withdrawals they allegedly made “were already beyond our capacity.”

They were shocked to know that it was Bernad who contacted the buyers for them.

“At that time, we were already suspicious that anomalous transactions were taking place. But Bernad was insistent. Despite our protests, we were left with no choice,” they said.

GRECON said that while the NFA recorded the alleged withdrawals, it could not present any document that would prove the traders received such stocks.

“These unscrupulous acts demonstrated by Bernad made us anxious because it may result in rice shortage in our locality,” they stressed.

GRECON, however, was not keen on filing charges against Bernad and the NFA.

“We will leave the work to our government officials,” they explained.

Since last week, the provincial board of North Cotabato has been investigating Bernad and the NFA.

In a meeting with the municipal mayors of North Cotabato today, NFA Cotabato warehouse manager Antonio Peralta noted that in March this year, the NFA registered more than 260 percent of their target in rice distribution.

He said that for March the NFA expected to release 15,639 bags of imported rice but actually distributed 40,884 bags.

He said this proves that the province is not experiencing a shortage of rice supply. (MindaNews)