Lawmakers seek passage of tougher law vs. agricultural economic sabotage

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 6) — Lawmakers are seeking to pass an improved law to better fight those who profit from agricultural economic sabotage.

The newly released Senate committee report expands the offenses considered to be economic sabotage to include hoarding, profiteering, and cartel.

Lawmakers said they want anyone who is proven to have participated in such practices to be given the penalty of life imprisonment.

It also takes away the power of the Bureau of Customs to file cases against participants, said Sen. Cynthia Villar, chairperson of the.Senate Committee on Agriculture

"The penalty of life imprisonment and a fine thrice the value of the agricultural and fishery products subject of the crime as economic sabotage shall be imposed on any person who commits, or aids or abets the commission of, any of the prohibited acts herein enumerated," the document said.

It added that anyone found guilty shall "also suffer the penalty of perpetual absolute disqualification to engage in any business involving importation, transportation, storage and warehousing, and domestic trade of agricultural and fishery products."

Government officials could also face perpetual disqualification from holding public office, exercising the right to vote, from participating in any public election, and forfeiture of employment monetary and financial benefits if they are proven to have participated in the acts named.

The report said hoarding happens when the stock is 30 percent more than the usual inventory, while profiteering involves misrepresentation of price, weight, and quality of products. For example, raising the price to more than 10 percent of the daily price index set by the agriculture department.

A cartel, meanwhile, is present when businesses conspire to create an artificial price increase.

An act will be considered economic sabotage when the amount involved is at least P1 million.

The report also seeks to create an anti-agricultural economic sabotage council to be led by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., as well as a special team of prosecutors and enforcers.

At a briefing on Wednesday, Villar said she is confident these are enough to go after the masterminds.

"Pumayag na ang Supreme Court that we will create a court especially for anti-agri smuggling and cartel hoarding law na parang kasing taas ng Sandiganbayan," she said.

[Translation: The Supreme Court agreed that we will create a court especially for anti-agri smuggling and cartel hoarding law that could be similar to the Sandiganbayan.]

Senators said they want the law passed before Christmas.

CNN Philippines' Eimor Santos and Pia Garcia contributed to this report.