NBI grills six supermarkets on product overpricing

October 9, 2009 9:57 am 

MANILA, Oct. 9 –Representatives of six supermarkets appeared at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Friday after they were subpoenaed for alleged overpricing.

Deputy Director for Intelligence Services lawyer Ruel Lasala said representatives and lawyers of Save More Drug Store, Robinson’s Supermarket, Inc., Plaza Fair Supermarket, PARCO, SM Group of Companies (Hypermarket) and Mightee Mart appeared at the NBI main office to air their respective positions.

Joint personnel of the NBI and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) started conducting inspections on groceries and supermarkets since Monday.

“Of the 34 supermarkets and establishments inspected by the joint monitoring teams since Monday in Quezon City, Makati, Muntinlupa, Pasay and Manila, 11 of them found of possibly violating the regulation on price ceiling being implemented by the Department of Trade Industry. There are six establishments subpoenaed because some of the 11 are just branches,” said Lasala.

Head agent Roland Argabioso, chief of NBI Field Operations Division (FOD), said officials of the DTI-National Capital Region, headed by Assistant Secretary Angel Pelayo, also attended the interaction meeting with the subpoenaed traders and their representatives to reiterate the stand of the government to prevent overpricing amid the national calamity due to typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng.

The Save More Drug claimed that the store was a small convenient store and it lacked sufficient manpower to tag the new list by the DTI on Oct. 2, 2009, or five days after the DTI issued the initial list of products under price control issued on Sept. 28, 2009.

SAave More Drug representative, lawyer Tristala Fajante, said it was a convenient store not classified as a supermarket and wet market and that the overhead cost was higher because they were operating on a 24-hour basis.

Lawyer Gilbert Millado Jr, of Robinson’s Supermarket said the supermarket was complying with the DTI list and that they were relying on postings of DTI in its website. He said Robinson's establishments were inspected on Oct. 5, this year and that the new DTI price list was only posted on Oct. 8, although that it (price list) was published earlier in papers.

Millado also said the price ceiling was inequitable and the prices of the commodities on the list were automatically on freeze when the state of calamity was declared.

They said there were no price movements and the prices on which they were found to be overpriced were the prices existing prior to the onslaught of the typhoon and the subsequent declaration of the “state of calamity.”

The SM Group of Companies’ representative lawyer Josefina Remollo said they would soon submit the company's position paper on the matter.

The Plaza Fair’s representative, Danny Patalinhug, maintained that the establishment complied with the DTI’s price list ever since and maintained their prices. However, some of their suppliers’ prices were higher than that of the price mandated by DTI.

He said it was thus sound business practice that there was a mark up of prices. They also insisted that said prices have been pegged at said level even before the State of the Calamity.

Evelyn Nacional of Parco said the establishment had been complying with the DTI price list but said there was a glitz, which is the computer transfer for the main office to the branch office to the purchasing service, delaying the implementation.

Lasala said the subpoenaed traders have been given until Oct. 16 to submit their counter-affidavits or position papers on the findings. “The NBI-DTI will evaluate all documents to determine if there is basis to warrant the filing of charges against them,” said Lasala.

The NBI joined DTI to closely monitor prices of commodities and effect arrest on violators amid reports that some businessmen were resorting to overpricing following the declaration of national calamity due to typhoons “Ondoy” and “Pepeng.”

Lasala tapped all units in the Intelligence Services to conduct strict monitoring on traders amid reports of overpricing in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

He said several NBI teams belonging to Intelligence Services had been deployed to join personnel of DTI to conduct operations and effect arrest on price violators.

Reports said some traders have started to take advantage of the national state of calamity declaration.

Malacanang expanded the price control coverage to nationwide level as well as the list of products to include LPG, lubricants, agricultural products, construction materials and funeral services. (PNA)

RMA/JES

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