Villar dismayed, urges ‘heavier’ case against rice smuggling suspect
Video by INQUIRER.net’s Ryan Leagogo
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Cynthia Villar on Friday expressed dismay over the non-filing of a “heavier” case against suspect rice smuggler David Bangayan also known as David Tan.
While commending the government’s move to file criminal charges against Bangayan, Villar said he should have also been charged with economic sabotage.
“Economic sabotage would have been a heavier case with heavier penalties. It’s about time that we enact a law clearly stating that rice smuggling constitutes economic sabotage. We need harsher penalties for this act,” she said in a statement.
Villar is the head of the Senate committee on agriculture and food that investigated the rice smuggling in the country involving Bangayan.
The National Bureau of Investigation has recommended that Bangayan be charged with bid-fixing under Republic Act 9184, the Government Procurement Reform Act, and monopoly in restraint of trade under the Revised Penal Code.
But the senator noted that the penalty for monopoly is imprisonment of six months to two years or a fine ranging from P200 to P6,000 only.
“The penalties provided in the law are too light, and won’t serve as deterrent to these acts,”Villar said.
She pointed out that while her committee was investigating the alleged rampant smuggling in the country, she was able to unearth a modus operandi where rice traders use farmer cooperatives as dummies in rice importation, effectively cornering the supply of imported rice in the market.
“When the scheme where farmer cooperatives were given importation permits was formulated, the intention was to let our farmers gain from importation. With this modus, rice traders took advantage of the farmers and only enriched themselves,” she said.
Villar hopes that the “government-to-government scheme” in importing rice would now finally put an end to smuggling.
She also hopes that the cases filed against the suspected smugglers would be resolved the soonest time possible in order to show the government’s commitment to stop smuggling.”
Aside from Bangayan, the NBI also recommended the filing of charges against former National Food Authority Administrator Angelito Banayo, and other government officials and individuals.
Villar also vowed to monitor the development in the cases filed against those involved in the rice smuggling in the country.
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