By Stephanie Sevillano

RECALLED. The preventive suspension against 23 employees of the National Food Authority has been lifted, announced Agriculture Assistant Secretary Arnel de Mesa at the Bagong Pilipinas Ngayon public briefing on Friday (March 15, 2024). The Ombudsman ordered the preventive suspension of 141 NFA officials and staff amid the ongoing probe on the alleged anomalous sale of rice buffer stock. (PNA photo by Robert Alfiler)

MANILA – The Department of Agriculture (DA) confirmed Friday the lifting of the preventive suspension against 23 officials and employees of the National Food Authority (NFA).

In a television interview, Ombudsman Samuel Martires said the lifting came after investigators found erroneous data from the list submitted ny the DA.

The 23, which included an assistant branch manager in a warehouse in Batangas province, are among the 141 NFA officials and employees suspended amid the ongoing probe on the alleged questionable sale of rice buffer stock.

Iyan ay magandang balita para sa mga empleyado dahil sila ay na-suspend without pay (That’s good news for the employees because they were suspended without pay),” Agriculture Assistant Secretary Arnel de Mesa said during the Bagong Pilipinas Ngayon public briefing.

“So, malaking tulong sa kanila na ma-lift para makatulong uli sa kanilang pamilya (it’s a huge help for their [suspension] to be lifted so they can again help their families).”

A total of 108 suspended NFA employees submitted their 26-page motion for reconsideration before the Office of the Ombudsman on Wednesday.

“The affected employees are deeply saddened by the undue haste by which the Office of the Ombudsman carried out its preventive suspension without even substantiating the alleged involvement of each concerned employee in the alleged anomalous sale of rice buffer stocks. Their functions are just ministerial job,” legal counsel Rafael Rayco said in a separate statement.

The initial order of the Ombudsman was six-month suspension without pay while the probe is ongoing.

The DA earlier said it would look into the transactions of NFA as far back as 2019. (PNA)