Press Release
October 18, 2015

Villar laments slow pace of justice for alleged smugglers,
welcomes passage of Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act

Sen. Cynthia Villar expressed disappointment over the snail-paced filing of charges against alleged smugglers as she welcomed the passage on third reading of the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act at the Senate.

"It is unfortunate that the numerous statements we gathered from resource persons in our hearings pointing to these persons as the ones responsible for smuggling in our country, is not enough for the filing of formal charges," Villar said.

According to a newspaper report, outgoing Justice Sec. Leila de Lima confirmed that "the case filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) versus Bangayan for monopoly in restraint of trade and violation of procurement laws was returned to the NBI for further case buildup in May 2015."

After two years, the Department of Justice has not filed formal charges against alleged big-time rice smuggler David Bangayan and Leah Cruz, who was involved in the garlic cartel. They were the center of the inquiry on smuggling in 2013 presided by Villar.

Villar, chair of the Committee on Agriculture and Food, is the principal sponsor of Senate Bill No. 2923 or the Anti- Large Scale Agricultural Smuggling Act. The bill, passed on third reading by the Senate, seeks to declare agricultural smuggling as a no-bailable offense of economic sabotage.

"We are confident that once enacted into law, this will send a strong message that this government is serious in eradicating smuggling in our country, and that economic saboteurs will be severely punished for threatening our country's food security," she said.

Under the bill, the amount of smuggled agricultural product subject to economic sabotage is equal or more than P10 million for rice, and equal or more than P1 million for other agricultural products such as sugar, corn, pork, poultry, garlic, onion, carrots, dried fish, and cruciferous vegetables.

The Nacionalista Party senator said smuggling is more serious than the pork barrel scam with about 600,000 metric tons of rice smuggled each year and about P200-450 billion lost to agricultural smuggling alone.

"Kung hindi natin hihigpitan ang penalties sa smuggling, mawawalan ng saysay ang ating mga hakbang para palaguin ang agrikultura sa ating bansa, kung saan nakadepende ang maraming Filipino," Villar said.

Villar noted that "smugglers have not only become more aggressive, but creative and cunning in their schemes."

"Thus, we ensured that all the elements in the determination of the crime of agricultural smuggling as economic sabotage-whether by means of technical or outright smuggling-are covered on the bill. We were also elaborate in liability of persons to the crime of agricultural smuggling as economic sabotage-whether as principals or accomplices," she said.

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