Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Monday ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate whether some groups or individuals are manipulating the prices of meat products and other food products.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) headed by Guevarra is the mother agency of the NBI.
Guevarra signed on Monday a department order for NBI Officer-in-Charge Eric Distor to conduct an investigation and case build-up on the said matter, especially after a public outcry over high prices of meat and other grocery items in Metro Manila amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
A report on the matter must be submitted to the Guevarra in 30 days.
“In the interest of the service and pursuant to the provisions of Republic Act No. 10867 […] the NBI, through Officer-in-Charge Eric Distor, is hereby directed and granted authority to conduct an investigation and case build-up on alleged violations of Republic Act No.7851, otherwise known as the Price Act,” Guevarra said in the order.
“[…] and Republic Act No. 3815, as amended, also known as the Revised Penal Code […] specifically on the existence and operation of certain groups allegedly manipulating the supply and price of pork and other basic foodstuff and, if evidence warrants, to file the appropriate charges against persons found responsible thereof,” he added.
The DOJ ordering the NBI to conduct a probe on rising prices of meat product follows the government’s formation of a sub-task group on economic intelligence (Econ Intel) that began monitoring the prices of meat products starting on Monday.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar said in the initial phase of its creation, the DA and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will go after unscrupulous traders and wholesalers who are allegedly responsible for the high prices of hogs and pork, hovering at more than P400 per kilogram (kg) that persisted even beyond last year’s Christmas season and despite reduced demand.
“Pork prices should have already gone down after the holidays, but they did not. Clearly, some persons along the food value chain are making a lot of money,” Dar said.
Before the holiday season, the average prices ranged from P270 per kg for pigue (pork leg) and kasim (pork shoulder) to P300/kg for liempo (pork belly).
It was the basis for the newly signed Executive Order 124 that mandates the price ceiling for the pork products for 60 days starting Feb. 8.