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President: Wrongdoers must be punished

Aquino says Torres can’t expect help from him if she strays from straight path
/ 05:23 AM September 24, 2015

LUNA, Apayao—Former Land Transportation Office (LTO) chief Virginia Torres feels hurt by a new scandal linking her to sugar smuggling and may sue to clear her name, President Aquino said here on Wednesday.

But the President said he is still reviewing all reports about Torres’ supposed attempt to release the P100-million worth of smuggled sugar from Thailand that was confiscated by the Bureau of Customs.

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“As for friendship, if your path is far from straight… then don’t expect my help,” said Aquino, who was here to inspect government projects and meet local officials and residents.

Torres denied name-dropping the President in her attempt to persuade customs officials to release the seized sugar shipments.

She also disowned a report which claimed that she insinuated that the proceeds from the sale of the confiscated sugar would fund the Liberal Party campaign next year.

“She sent a text message to a friend to complain that the accusations against her were too much for her to take. So she is considering suing her detractors. That is her right because she believed all the claims against her were false. Her reputation was besmirched,” Aquino told a press conference.

“But there are processes we have to follow, so… the one who did wrong must be punished,” he said.

Asked if the report surprised him due to his friendship with Torres, he said: “The way I understand the story is that she earns a living planting sugar cane… The price of sugar is important to farmers. So are we to believe she would help smugglers who bring down the price of sugar?”

“If somebody violates the law, then we should arrest that person. But if that person is innocent, then let’s help that person during the investigation,” he said.

Torres’ admission that she now owns sugar lands surprised militant solons who are wondering how the former LTO chief got the lands in Hacienda Luisita which were supposed to be distributed to small farmers.

The Makabayan bloc is demanding answers from Torres and President Aquino on the extent of their partnership in the Cojuangco-Aquino controlled Hacienda Luisita.

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Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan said there was “more than meets the eye” in the botched smuggling try.

“Has her closeness with P-Noy been thoroughly exploited in the past which was exposed only now? Why isn’t she being charged?” asked Ilagan in a text message.

Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap said Malacañang’s efforts to cover up Torres’ sugar smuggling has inadvertently opened up questions on why Torres emerged as a sugar farmer in Hacienda Luisita.

Hicap said that Torres appeared to have amassed illicit lease agreements called “aryendo” system which allowed the Cojuangco-Aquinos to remain in control of the vast sugar plantation that was supposed to have been distributed to small farmers under a Supreme Court ruling in 2012.

Hicap said that Torres was among the “dummies” used by the Aquino-Cojuangco group which made a mockery of the land distribution process implemented through a much derided tambiolo or raffle scheme in 2013.—Leilanie Adriano, Inquirer Northern Luzon with a report by Gil Cabacungan

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TAGS: Benigno Aquino III, sugar smuggling, Virginia Torres
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