Lawmaker dares Customs to file charges vs rice smugglers, hoarders

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 17) — Senator Chiz Escudero questioned why the Bureau of Customs (BOC) has yet to file charges against rice smugglers and hoarders despite conducting several raids in warehouses in the past months.

"Ang dami nang raids na ginawa nitong mga nakaraang linggo. Bakit hanggang ngayon, wala pang kasong isinasampa sa mga taong sangkot?" Escudero said in a statement released Sunday.

[Translation: There have been a number of raids in recent weeks. But until now, why have there been no charges filed against the people involved?

The senator also asked why the names of traders and operators are not being disclosed to the public, stressing the need to file charges to serve as a warning to other smugglers.

"Hindi tayo dapat nagtatapos sa mga raids lamang. Naghihintay at nagmamatyag ang taumbayan sa susunod na hakbangin ng pamahalaan. Sampahan na agad ng kaso ang mga dapat sampahan. We should bring them to the court of justice to prove that this administration is resolute in its campaign against rice cartels," Escudero said.

[Translation: We should not end with raids. The people are waiting and watching for the next steps the government will take. Cases should be filed immediately against those who should be charged.]

The Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016, or Republic Act 10845, considers large-scale smuggling of agricultural products as economic sabotage and involves "at least ₱1-million worth of sugar, corn, pork, poultry, garlic, onion, carrots, fish, and cruciferous vegetables…or a minimum of ₱10-million worth of rice."

Aside from calling for the immediate filing of cases against hoarders, Escudero said the government should also update the public on their development in the spirit of transparency.

"Ito ang mga dapat nilang masagot ngayon: Who oversees the disposition and how will it be disposed? Ano ang gagawin nila sa mga bigas na nakumpiska?" he said.

[Translation: These are the questions they should be able to answer now: Who oversees the disposition and how will it be disposed? What will they do with the confiscated rice?]

Meanwhile, a recent BOC-led raid yielded ₱40-million worth of rice in two warehouses -- one in Pulang Lupa, Las Piñas and the other in Bacoor, Cavite.

The warehouses were found storing rice products from Vietnam, Thailand, and China.

Authorities granted the owner a 15-day period to submit the necessary documentation to validate the legality of their importation and payment of correct duties and taxes.