MANILA, Philippines—A Senate joint probe committee has recommended that the Ombudsman investigate former National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator Lito Banayo and other NFA officials for possible graft in connection with the alleged use of NFA licensed rice importers as dummies by certain moneyed individuals who cornered state rice import quotas worth millions of pesos.
The inquiry, conducted by the committees on agriculture, ways and means, trade and commerce, and on the accountability of public officers, “found that there is sufficient basis to conclude that financiers are behind the anomalous transactions, and the testimony and documents obtained in the hearings establish without a doubt that these financiers exist and have employed dummies to rig the bidding process.”
Sen. Francis Pangilinan, chairman of the agriculture committee, presided over the hearings, which initially began with an investigation into the multimillion-peso attempted smuggling of rice at the ports of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone and Legazpi, Albay.
“The testimony and documents submitted by the Bureau of Customs (BOC), National Food Authority and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) before the committees strongly reveal that there is a rice cartel which involves certain government officials who allow transactions to be consummated regardless of the irreparable injury it would cause to the government,” read the committee report released by the joint investigation.
The committee report recommended that the Ombudsman together with the BOC examine the significant documents submitted before the committees and to conduct further investigation for possible violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act against the following government officials:
Banayo; lawyer Gilbert Lauengco, Banayo’s former chief of staff and member of the NFA’s special bids and awards committee; assistant administrator Jose D. Cordero, grains marketing and operations department, and chairman of the SBAC; Serafin Manalili, manager of the NFA Bulacan office; Yolanda Navarro, NFA Albay provincial office; and members of the SBAC—Celia Z. Tan, lawyer Judy Carol L. Dansal and Carlito G. Co.
The committee report noted that testimony and documents at the hearings pointed to Danilo Garcia, Willy Sy, a certain “Danny Ngo” and a certain “David Tan” as being the alleged financiers of the illegal operation.
“These financiers and their accomplices must be unmasked and if warranted, the necessary charges filed against them,” the committee report said, as it asked the Ombudsman, the Department of Justice and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to pursue the leads with respect to these individuals whose names came up during the hearings.
It said Garcia, Sy, Ngo and Tan should be investigated for graft, for illegal importation and for violation of the country’s laws against monopolies and restraint of trade.
Recommended for investigation were the following groups:
King Casey Trading, Loui London Trading, St. Andrews Field Grains and Cereals, Wish Granted Enterprises, Montevallo Enterprises, Formosa Multi-Purpose Cooperative, Riverview Multi-Purpose Cooperative, Ugnayang Magsasaka sa Kaunlaran MPC, GPI San Miguel MPC, St. Dominic Rice and Foodstuff Enterprises, Pure Country Trading;
Chon Buri Trading, Mahindra Rice and Food Trading, Nemic Fusion Rice and Grains Enterprises, West Point Rice and Cereals Enterprises, Jaded Ranch Grains and Cereals Trading, Red Mountain Grain and Cereals Dealer, Sitio Muzon Farmers MPC, Sta. Cecilia MPC, Zwings Grain and Rice Enterprises, Lexant International Trading;
Sili MPC, Kapatirang Takusa MPC, Samahan ng Magsasakang Kapampangan at Katagalugan MPC, Malipampang Concern Citizens MPC, and Ugnayang Magbubukid ng San Isidro.
Banayo denied the allegations, claiming that the country was never placed at a disadvantage during his tenure as NFA administrator.
“Bidding… was done openly unlike the previous practice of simply giving these to a chosen few,” Banayo said.
He claimed that because of the reforms that he instituted at the NFA, the state agency made P1.6 billion in 2011 and P2.6 billion in 2012, compared to a measly P103 million in 2010.
“[These improved figures] augmented our much-reduced budget subsidies. We are certain that we protected government interests and fulfilled our mandate,” Banayo said.
“We followed the law in all bidding procedures and relied on certifications given by other gov’t agencies, the BOC included,” he added.