Press Release
September 22, 2015


Sen. Chiz Escudero said the Bureau of Customs (BOC) should file smuggling charges against former Land Transportation Office (LTO) chief Virginia Torres for trying to negotiate the release of P100 million worth of smuggled Thai sugar.

Escudero said the BOC should send a strong message that the administration is serious in its bid to curb smuggling that even perceived administration allies will not be spared.

"Cases must be filed against her if indeed there's evidence to prove that she intervened or is trying to intervene in an illegal shipment," Escudero said.

The veteran lawmaker said the BOC should take the cue from Malacañang's pronouncement that influence peddling will not tolerated by the administration.

Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. on Sunday said that if there was proof that Torres committed such prohibited act, then it may be acted upon in accordance with the law.

"If the BOC is fascinated in looking into the measly 'padala' of our overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), then the more it should be interested in pursuing the people behind the importation of 64 shipping containers of smuggled sugar worth more than P100 million," said Escudero, who has been seeking a law against influence-peddling since 2007.

Senate Bill No. 118, which Escudero refiled in 2013, states that "it shall be unlawful for any person to engage in influence peddling or the act of representing oneself, either orally or in writing, as being able, whether real or imagined, to influence, facilitate or assist another person having some business, transaction, application, request or contract with the government in which a public official or employee has to intervene."

Torres reportedly last month tried to plead for the release of the illegally imported goods, which were also not covered by import permits by the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA).

The said shipping containers were the subject of 24 alert orders of the Intelligence Group of the BOC. According to Escudero, the government should train its sights on sugar smuggling rather than targeting the "balikbayan" boxes being sent by OFWs. "The BOC should run after big-time smugglers instead of molesting our OFWs. The agency is being hard on our OFWs who play a major part in building the economy, but is being easy on those who are ruining it," the senator said.

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