MANILA - National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator Jason Aquino should have the sense of propriety to leave his post over a shortage in his agency's buffer stock of state-subsidized rice, Senator Grace Poe said Wednesday.
"Sa nakikita ko ngayon -- walang personalan ito sa administrator -- pero talagang malaki ang kaniyang naging pagkukulang. At sa tingin ko, hindi naman tayo kulang sa mga tao na maaaring magpatupad ng kanilang mandato na maayos," Poe told DZMM radio.
(From what I see now -- and I have nothing personal against the administrator -- he has had grave shortcomings. I think we have no shortage of people who can fulfill the mandate properly.)
"Sana may delicadeza siya na sabihin, 'Paumanhin sa taumbayan, ito'y hindi ko nagampanan nang maayos. Magbibitiw na lang ako,'" added the lawmaker, who chairs the Senate public services committee.
(May he have the delicadeza to tell the public, 'I am sorry but I have failed to do my job properly. I will just resign.')
President Rodrigo Duterte, she said, can appoint a replacement for Aquino if he refuses to step down.
A Senate hearing on the shortage of the NFA rice supply on Tuesday found that Aquino removed port officers tasked to prevent smuggling attempts of the staple, Poe said.
Poe had also raised reports that Aquino used 2 employees to carry out questionable orders -- an allegation that the latter denied.
Some farmers, meanwhile, told lawmakers that some dishonest traders were repacking NFA rice as commercial grain and selling it at a higher price, the senator said.
Given these points, Poe said: "Itong si Mr. Aquino, ang laki ng pananagutan, sa aming palagay, sa kakulangan ng bigas na nangyayari sa ating bansa."
(Mr. Aquino is largely accountable, we think, for the rice shortage in our country.)
The NFA earlier said multiple typhoons before the end of 2017 depleted its buffer stock, which will now only last for 2 days. The agency is required to have a 15-day buffer stock at any given time.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said President Rodrigo Duterte will fire any NFA official found to be responsible for the shortage.