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VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Press secretary’s statement on employment status of DA exec needs context

WHAT WAS CLAIMED

Leocadio Sebastian resigned as undersecretary and chief of staff of the Department of Agriculture.

OUR VERDICT

Needs context:

Richard Palpal-Latoc, deputy executive secretary for legal affairs under the Office of the President, said Sebastian only asked to be relieved of his delegated duties in the Agriculture department. He “did not resign from the position” and “can still be appointed to another position equivalent to his CESO [Career Executive Service Officer] rank.”

Sep 14, 2022

VERA Files

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Executive Secretary Victor Rodriguez has contradicted an Aug. 12 announcement of Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles that Leocadio Sebastian, in his letter to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., had resigned as undersecretary and chief of staff of the Department of Agriculture (DA). This needs context.

STATEMENT

In a 20-minute Facebook livestream on Aug. 12, Cruz-Angeles, a former vlogger, answered questions after saying that Sebastian sent a resignation letter to Marcos the day before. When a viewer asked the press secretary if Sebastian had resigned or asked to be relieved, she replied:

Nag-resign po siya. ‘Yon po ang nakalagay sa kanyang sulat. (He resigned. That’s what is in his letter.”

 

Source: Office of the Press Secretary official Facebook page, Live with Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles (August 12, 2022), Aug. 12, 2022, watch from 13:00 to13:05

More than two weeks later on Aug. 30, Cruz-Angeles maintained in a press briefing that Sebastian had quit.

However, she said Marcos had not accepted his resignation because the undersecretary is still serving a 90-day preventive suspension. She said Sebastian was suspended in view of an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Sugar Order No. 4 that he and three former members of the SRA board had approved.

FACT

Rodriguez told senators during a Sept. 6 Senate hearing that Sebastian only asked to be “relieved” from his positions in the Agriculture department.

Iyong sulat ho niya kasi noong (His letter on) Aug. 11 … ang sinasabi lang ho niya ay hindi naman po resignation (what he was saying was not resignation),” Rodriguez replied when Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano asked him to clarify if Sebastian had resigned or was fired.

Quoting a portion of Sebastian’s letter, the executive secretary said:

“‘Thus, I humbly offer to be relieved of my delegated authorities and the assignments and responsibilities in my capacity as Chief of Staff and Undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture.’”

 

Source: Senate of the Philippines official YouTube channel, Blue Ribbon Committee (September 6, 2022), Sept. 6, 2022, watch from 4:02:48 to 4:03:22

In the same hearing, Richard Palpal-Latoc, deputy executive secretary for legal affairs under the Office of the President, said that “by requesting to be relieved, [Sebastian] did not resign from the position” and “can still be appointed to another position equivalent to his CESO [Career Executive Service Officer] rank.”

As a CESO 1, Sebastian is considered a permanent government employee with guaranteed security of tenure regardless of his position or rank  in the bureaucracy.

BACKSTORY

Two of the SRA board members who approved Sugar Order No. 4 resigned in August. Cruz-Angeles described the order as “illegal” because it was approved without the authority of Marcos as SRA board chairman. Sebastian signed the order “for” Marcos as his alternate in the SRA board.

After Sebastian asked for his relief, then-SRA administrator Hermenegildo Serafica resigned.  The miller’s representative to the board, lawyer Roland Beltran, also quit, citing health reasons.

The two resignations were accepted by the President. The fourth board member, planter’s representative Aurelio Gerardo Valderrama Jr. was not reappointed in the revamped composition of the SRA board.  

On Sept. 8, the Senate blue ribbon and the agriculture, food and agrarian reform committees recommended the filing of administrative complaints before the Ombudsman against the four former SRA board members for serious dishonesty, grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, and gross insubordination under the Revised Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service. The committees also recommended criminal charges of graft and corruption, smuggling and usurpation of official functions for issuing the importation order.

The committees want the former officials to be placed on the immigration lookout bulletin in case they tried to leave the country.

The SRA is a government-owned and controlled corporation under the Department of Agriculture. It was founded in 1986 to develop and formulate policies, among others, to ensure sufficient supply of sugar in the country.

 

Have you seen any dubious claims, photos, memes, or online posts that you want us to verify? Fill out this reader request form.

 

Sources

Senate of the Philippines official YouTube channel, Blue Ribbon Committee (September 6, 2022), Sept. 6, 2022

Office of the Press Secretary official Facebook page, Live with Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles (August 12, 2022), Aug. 12, 2022

Office of the Press Secretary official Facebook page, (Announcement on the “resignation” of Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian) (archive), Aug. 13, 2022

Office of the Press secretary official website, WATCH: Press briefing of Press Secretary Atty. Trixie Cruz-Angeles | August 30, 2022 (transcript), Aug. 30, 2022

Office of the Press secretary official website, Probe underway over ‘unauthorized’ importation of 300,000 MT of sugar, Aug. 11, 2022

Career Executive Service Board official website, FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ON CAREER EXECUTIVE SERVICE OFFICER (CESO), Accessed Sept. 9, 2022

Philippine News Agency, SRA administrator Serafica resigns, Aug. 16, 2022

Inquirer.net, SRA chief Serafica resigns following sugar importation mess, Aug. 16, 2022

Philstar.com, Sugar administrator resigns following import mess, Aug. 16, 2022

Inquirer.net, Sugar board member linked to importation reso mess resigns due to ‘health reasons’, Aug. 15, 2022

Philippine News Agency, SRA board member resigns due to ‘health reason’,  Aug. 15, 2022

Philstar.com, Sugar administrator resigns following import mess, Aug. 16, 2022

GMA News Online, Another Sugar Order 4 signatory resigns from post, Aug. 15, 2022

People’s Television official website, Pres. Marcos reconstitutes Sugar Regulatory Board with 3 new appointees, Aug. 20, 2022

Philippine News Agency, SRA Board planter’s rep leaving fate to PBBM, Aug. 16, 2022

Daily Guardian, Fate of SRA board’s ‘last man standing’ up to Marcos Jr., Aug. 17, 2022

Senate of the Philippines official YouTube channel, Blue Ribbon Committee (September 8, 2022), Sept. 8, 2022

Senate of the Philippines official website, Committee Report No. 3 (19th Congress), Sept. 8, 2022

Sugar Regulatory Administration official website, Officials of the SRA Board, Accessed Sept. 8, 2022

Sugar Regulatory Administration official website, About Us, Accessed Sept. 8, 2022

Official Gazette official website, Executive Order No. 18, s. 1986., May 28, 1986

 

(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

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