Senate to probe sugar importation mess, PS-DBM controversies

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 17) — The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee will investigate the sugar importation mess at the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) and controversies involving the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM), the panel’s chairman said Wednesday.

The inquiries will be the first to be conducted by the committee chaired by Sen. Francis Tolentino under the 19th Congress.

The probe into the SRA board's order to import 300,000 metric tons of refined and raw sugar, which was later deemed by Malacañang as illegal, will be held on Aug. 23.

Two committees of the House of Representatives are also looking into the sugar importation controversy and the signing of Sugar Order No. 4.

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Wednesday said he is leaving the investigation duties to the legislative branch so the executive can focus on the inventory and likely importation of sugar.

The Senate committee will also probe PS-DBM on Aug. 25 for the laptops it bought for the Department of Education, which were flagged by state auditors for being pricey and outdated.

It will also to look into contracts for personal protective equipment (PPE) that were approved by PS-DBM even with incomplete certification.

Tolentino said the panel hired former Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Carandang as senior legal consultant, and former Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon Gerard Mosquera as general counsel for all its hearings "to show the seriousness" of the committee in fulfilling its mandate.

The lawmaker assured the public that the inquiries will not turn into a witch hunt, saying the goal is to uncover the truth.

"Kahit sino po ang masaktan [Even if someone gets hurt], we will do what is right," he said.

CNN Philippines correspondent Eimor Santos contributed to this report.