By Paul M. Gutierrez and Marlon Purificacion | People's Journal
Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos yesterday expressed surprise over the revelation of Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner John Philip Sevilla that some traders have managed to secure a court injunction against the bureau ahead of the arrival of their rice shipment.
“Bago ito ha (this is quite new),” Marcos said, specifically referring to Sevilla’s statement that the BOC received a copy of the court injunction in favor of a shipment of 50 containers of rice at the Port of Batangas (POB) although the bureau is not holding any rice shipment at the POB at the time of the issuance of the court order.
“Hindi sila (traders) makakuha ng import permit pero nakakakuha sila ng court injunction ahead of their shipment,” Marcos told People’s Tonight.
This and other revelations in relation to the smuggling of rice in the country was among those that came out in yesterday’s hearing on the rice smuggling issue by the Senate committee on agriculture chaired by Sen. Cynthia Villar.
Marcos also urged the Customs bureau to find other ways to hold the rice shipments in view of some of the local court’s issuance of injunctions in Davao, Batangas and Manila prohibiting the BOC from holding rice shipments brought in by specific traders, one of which, Starcraft Trading, was identified with alleged smuggling king, ‘David Tan.’
“Masyadong napipinsala ang ating mga magsasaka dahil sa smuggling at dapat gumawa ng lahat ng paraan ang Customs para mapigilan ang paglabas (sa merkado) ng mga bigas na ito,” Marcos stressed, as he also pointed to previous court decisions that stressed the BOC’s exclusive power on smuggling cases over those of the courts.
Marcos made the suggestion in the light of Sevilla’s admission that in the case of 187 containers of rice that landed in Davao consigned to Starcraft, the BOC released the shipment based on another court injunction against the agency.
Sevilla noted further that the Davao court issued the prohibition favoring Starcraft despite the petitioner, Joseph Ngo, not being connected with the company.
In the same hearing, controversial trader Davidson Bangayan also came under heavy fire from the senators for denying he is ‘David Tan.’
Bangayan’s denial was countered by Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile and by Department of Justice Sec. Leila de Lima.
De Lima cited court records and the initial result of the investigation being conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) as regards those responsible for the rampant smuggling of rice and which purportedly established that Bangayan and Tan is only one person.
For his part, Department of Agriculture (DA) Sec. Proceso Alcala assured that starting this year, the use of ‘recycled’ import permit for rice, which is among the most lucrative rackets by syndicates inside the DA and the National Food Authority.
“Simula po sa taong ito, hindi na mauulit ‘yan (recycled import permit). May ginawa na pong sistema ang NFA para sa pagbibigay ng import permit. Ang mangyayari po ngayon, basta walang import permit, smuggled rice na po ’yan, pwede ang kumpiskahin,” Alcala told People’s Tonight.
In the hearing, Bangayan admitted that he dealt with farmers’ cooperatives.
However, Bangayan insisted his transactions with them were legal.
Bangayan also said transactions with farmers’ cooperatives is widespread in the rice industry.
“Hindi po [ito illegal]. Depende po kasi sa arrangement. This is an industry practice called consolidation,” Bangayan added.
The admission came after Secretary De Lima said that Bangayan, using the alias “David Tan” or “DT,” used farmers’ cooperatives as fronts to smuggle rice into the country.
De Lima detailed how DT supposedly made bids for and obtained “discretion in rice sale” by using farmers’ cooperatives.
The Justice secretary also countered Bangayan’s claim his dealings with farmers’ cooperatives were legal.
“Mukha hong hindi ho tama iyon... Ito pong mga financier, broker, David Tan na ito o kung sino pa man, sila lang ang nagbe-benefit. Ginagamit lang nila ang farmers’ cooperatives,” De Lima said.
De Lima also detailed alleged modus operandi of some importers to smuggle rice into the country.
She said some traders misdeclare their shipments to be able smuggle rice.
“Ang deklarado nila, hardware or construction materials. Ang totoo nito, bigas pala,” she said.
Also, she said, some importers even pad their shipments and “divert” deliveries to other warehouses other than those controlled by the government.
“May pasobra ang karga sa barko. Kung sakaling 10 truckloads ang ide-deliver, lima lang ang ide-deliver sa NFA [National Food Authority] warehouses. The other five, kung sino na ang nakabili ng nasabing bigas, doon dadalhin,” she said.
Another scheme is through the so-called “recycling” of entry permits.
“These traders do not give pre-arrival notices to the NFA, allowing them to use their permits over and over again.”