Ex-Agriculture chief pleads not guilty in ‘garlic cartel’ graft case

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(FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 24) — Former Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala on Friday pleaded not guilty to graft charges for his alleged involvement in the “garlic cartel” scam.

Alcala was charged with graft for supposedly granting almost 9,000 import permits to garlic dealers. The case jacked up market prices in 2013 to 2014.

Bulk of the permits allegedly went to a group headed by a certain Lilia Cruz, whom Alcala appointed as chair of the National Garlic Action Team. The group served as the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) consultative body on policies and concerns regarding garlic production and supply.

The Ombudsman earlier said this allowed Cruz and her group, Vendors Association of the Philippines, Inc. to “monopolize the garlic supply” and “dictate its market prices.”

Apart from Alcala, the anti-graft court had also charged Cruz, other officials of the Bureau of Plant Industry, and garlic traders.

The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan set the first day of his pre-trial conference on July 5.

Alcala, who served as the Agriculture chief during the Aquino administration, was barred from government service in 2017 for misuse of ₱13.5 million in a construction project and for illegally allowing the DA to resort to an alternative method of repeat order.

CNN Philippines Correspondent AC Nicholls contributed to this report.