Claims ‘David Tan’ a decoy created by Quezon Mafia
A LAWYER on Wednesday accused Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala of being the godfather of a rice cartel run by his so-called Quezon Mafia, and said the alleged smuggling king David Tan was a phantom created to deflect attention away from the plunder complaint filed against him and National Food Authority Administrator Orlan Calayag over the importation of overpriced rice from Vietnam.
Argee Guevarra, president of the Sanlakas party-list group, called on the public to refocus its attention on the Agriculture Department’s monopoly in rice imports, which favors a new rice cartel operated by the Quezon Mafia.
In an interview, Guevarra vowed to expose the members of the Quezon Mafia, which he said was headed by their “godfather,” Alcala.
“The Quezon Mafia is composed of Secretary Alcala’s trusted political lieutenants who hail from Quezon Province, and most of them are now working and holding sensitive positions at the Department of Agriculture,” Guevarra said.
“I will come out with the list of the Quezon Mafia members as soon as I’ve completed gathering all the information regarding the group. What I can tell you now is one of Alcala’s most trust lieutenants is NFA administrator Orlan Calayag,” he added. Calayag served as Alcala’s chief of staff when he was still a congressman.
Guevarra said instead of going after fictitious David Tan, government investigators should investigate and prosecute the real smugglers in the Agriculture Department.
“The credibility-breaking contention of Secretary Alcala in blaming the country’s rice woes on a single individual supposedly named David Tan, a ghost at that, speaks volumes of his desperate attempt to camouflage rice smuggling undertaken by the DA through its public sector monopolization of the country’s rice trade”, Guevarra said.
Guevarra assailed Alcala for trying to cover up his plunder case by demonizing a certain David Tan as the Goliath in rice smuggling, “when the truth is out that there is no David Tan from Davao to speak of but a Davidson Bangayan from Manila whose brush with the law is for allegedly pilfering electricity, not rice smuggling.”
Guevarra added: “To save face and to shore up a shot credibility, Secretary Alcala will repackage David Tan as Davidson Bangayan. In law, the legal maxim is Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus applies to Alcala: Falsehood in one statement is falsehood in all of their allegations.”
“Given the farcical lengths with which David Tan was surfaced as Davidson Bangayan—from the realm of obscurity to the spotlight of notoriety, it appears that Mr. Bangayan is being primed as a fall guy”, Guevarra said.
Guevarra said that sources from the Agriculture Department and Customs told him that the NBI should check reports that there really is a David Tan, who is not a Filipino but a Hong Kong national.
“This David Tan was supposed to be a former business partner of Secretary Alcala in the rice trading business until their alleged relationship soured,” he said.
“It is perhaps more fruitful for government investigation to focus on the David Tans from within the Agriculture Department. I have already charged an Alfredo Roa in the plunder complaint I filed
against Secretary Alcala who was responsible for receiving kickbacks meant for Agriculture officials from the April 2013 Vietnam rice importation and who, just after the, Yolanda struck, proceeded to Hong Kong with Agriculture officials and consultants to seal a 500,000 metric tons of rice from
Southern Vietnam Food Corp., the partial shipment of which was recently reported to have arrived in the Subic Free Port and is facing tax payment troubles,” Guevarra said.
Guevarra earlier said Roa is the government’s “David Tan” in its public sector monopolization of the rice industry, describing the alleged “bagman” as a trader close to Alcala who manages the kickbacks from the government-to-government rice importation scheme.
He added that the Justice Department should go after the alleged bagman, whom he referred to as “Buddy R.”
“Buddy R is a real person while David Tan is a product of fiction, a bogeyman or a phantom created to cow legitimate rice traders who oppose the G2G scheme. I will ask the DOJ to investigate this person,” Guevarra said.
Guevarra also chided Abono party-list Rep. Rosendo So for defending Alcala and acting as his spokesman to demonize David Tan.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Wednesday said the National Bureau of Investigation was sticking by its theory that businessman Davidson Bangayan is the David Tan, whom Alcala has tagged as the head of a massive rice smuggling syndicate.
De Lima said despite Bangayan’s release from custody Tuesday, the NBI will pursue its investigation into his possible involvement in the rice smuggling cartel.
“NBI is more or less confident that they have the right guy. They said they are sufficiently convinced that Davidson Bangayan, the one who surfaced and arrested is David Tan,” De Lima told reporters.
Nonetheless, De Lima ordered the NBI to gather more proof that would completely establish that Tan and Bangayan are the one and the same.
She said, for now, the NBI would continue to gather evidence to pin down Bangayan.
“I’m actually challenging the NBI to do that—build a strong case. I want more proof that he and David Tan are one and the same person,” she said.
De Lima said she would discuss the matter with Alcala and Customs Commissioner John Sevilla to coordinate the ongoing probe on rice smuggling.
She said the Bureau of Immigration has been told to alert the Justice Department if Bangayan tries to leave the country.
De Lima said the NBI did not conclude that it had arrested the wrong person. It was the Caloocan regional trial court, which had issued an arrest warrant against him in the pilferage case, which cleared Bangayan.
She said the NBI was compelled to free Bangayan after his lawyers said the arrest warrant was for “David Tan” and not “Davidson Bangayan.”
The same arrest warrant became the basis the NBI used to immediately arrest Bangayan after he voluntarily appeared before the agency on Tuesday to deny reports linking him in rice smuggling.
De Lima said she was puzzled by the court’s action.
“This is the first time for me to see an arrest warrant where the court is the one that clears a person,” De Lima said.
The court also prevented NBI agents from checking the records in the case because they were not parties to it, she added.
“Why would they say that law enforcers have no right to look at the records of the case?” De Lima said.
“Why did the warrant of arrest explicitly state David Tan is not Davidson Bangayan? We have questions that need answers,” she said.
Bangyan appeared at the Justice Department Wednesday, denying he is Tan.
He also dismissed as “unfounded, speculative” allegations that Bangayan’s group of companies - Silver Dragon Resources Singapore Pte. Ltd., Silver Dragon Hongkong Limited, Advanced Scrap Specialist Corp., Amphibian Metal Trading Co., Advanced Transystem Corp. and Advanced Scrap Metal Corp. – had links to the alleged activities of Tan.
A Customs agent who spoke on condition of anonymity said there were two other David Tans, aside from Bangayan.
“The name David Tan is a known alias in Customs. But the problem is there are three A.K.A David Tan at the Pier,” the agent said.
Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI) chairman Jesus Arranza earlier identified Bangayan as the alleged big-time rice smuggler David Tan, whom the authorities had been hunting down. With Ronald O. Reyes