Aquino to Virginia Torres: If you stray from my path, we’re not friends
President Aquino on Tuesday night appeared to cut his ties to a close friend who had reportedly dropped his name in an alleged attempt to get shipping containers of smuggled sugar into the country.
“If you do something that strays from my path, then we are not friends,” said in Filipino. “Smuggling definitely is not OK. Influence peddling is not OK. If our friendship is based on her ability to use me, therefore, we are not friends.”
The President was interviewed on ANC by Tina Monzon-Palma in Malacañang.
“Does it makes sense for her to facilitate sugar smugglers that depress the prices of the products that she’s invested in?” he said.
News reports have detailed an alleged attempt by former Land Transportation Office (LTO) chief Virginia Torres to seek the release of over P100-million worth of smuggled sugar from Thailand during a visit to the Bureau of Customs on Aug. 20.
She had reportedly dropped the President’s name and hinted that the proceeds from the sale of the sugar would go to the ruling Liberal Party’s election campaign kitty for next year.
Torres has denied using Aquino’s name or saying that the money was going toward the election.
Also on Tuesday, the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) hailed the Bureau of Customs for intercepting the sugar shipments reportedly smuggled into the country and whose release was allegedly sought by Torres.
“The SRA lauds the BOC for its earnest efforts to resist the reported attempts or intercessions unscrupulously seeking the release of seized smuggled sugar,” SRA Administrator Ma. Regina Martin said.
On the strength of the recently passed Sugarcane Industry Development Act (SIDA), as well as by virtue of a joint memorandum agreement between the SRA and the BOC, “no imported sugar may be released by the BOC without the pertinent clearance from the SRA,” Martin said.
She said the SRA had not issued clearances to release the smuggled sugar to the customs bureau.
She said that per SRA records, the 64 shipping vans containing the sugar were not issued SRA release clearances, thus, their seizure by the BOC was lawful and in order.
She said that with regard to imported sugar, an importer or consignee must be a registered international trader and not just a domestic trader for the SRA to issue a clearance for release.
The SRA, Martin said, is investigating the smuggling attempt and those found guilty will be blacklisted, in addition to other sanctions that may be imposed by the SRA.
In the City of San Fernando, the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) on Tuesday pressed the Aquino administration to file charges against Torres.
President Aquino should order the Department of Justice to charge Torres with smuggling and influence-peddling, UMA media officer Gi Estrada told the Inquirer by phone.
Torres is a “shooting buddy” of the President and his province mate from Tarlac. She has claimed that she plants sugar at Hacienda Luisita which is owned by Aquino’s relatives.
John Milton Lozande, acting UMA chair, said Torres’ “intimations of her links to the President and Hacienda Luisita are all true.”
He assailed what he called attempts to cover up the BOC incident involving Torres.
“Malacañang seems torn between ensuring election funds and building up the Liberal Party’s tainted image. No amount of spin and damage control can save the administration’s bet for the 2016 presidential elections, Mar Roxas, from this new scandal,” Lozande said in a statement.
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