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‘Wow mali!’ NBI arrests wrong man in rice raps

This one could pass for a segment for ‘Wow Mali’!

In a classic case of mistaken identity, the National Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday arrested the wrong ‘David Tan,’ an alleged rice smuggler, a few hours after David Tan Bangayan, a legitimate businessman, turned himself in to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to deny his involvement on the smuggling case.


Bangayan’s lawyer, Benito Salazar, was understandably upset, saying what the NBI did to his client was a ‘wrongful arrest.’

“The warrant is against David Tan. My client is Davidson Bangayan,” he said.

Upon verification that he was not the David Tan that they were after, the NBI released Bangayan.

De Lima tried to wiggle out of the mess by saying that there was an outstanding arrest warrant against a David Tan issued by the Regional Trial Court of Caloocan City Branch 126 in October 2010 in connection with a pending case for pilferage of electricity and theft of electric transmission lines before the Caloocan City Regional trial Court.

De Lima said she immediately ordered the NBI to turn over Bangayan to the court considering that the complaint against him was bailable.

She also clarified that the arrest had nothing to do with the rice smuggling allegations.

De Lima admitted that Bangayan went to her office to personally debunk the claims of Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI) chairman Jesus Arranza that he was the alleged big-time rice smuggler ‘David Tan’ whom the authorities had been hunting down.

Accompanied by Salazar, Bangayan told De Lima that he is not engaged in big-time rice importation as his main businesses are scrap metal and fertilizers.

“(His rice business) is not that big, according to him (Bangayan). Therefore, he could not be the big-time smuggler that’s being referred to. He said he is willing to cooperate so I referred him to the NBI and submit a statement,” De Lima said.

Bangayan went to the NBI as requested, and that was when the NBI agents, who were apparently not informed of the meeting between Bangayan and De Lima, arrested the businessman.

Tan’s other lawyer, Atty. Laurence Arroyo, said that his client, who owns companies in Singapore and Hong Kong, has been maliciously and unfairly dragged into the smuggling issue.

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. - have been similarly linked to the alleged activities of “David Tan.”

“This group of companies (based in the Philippines, Singapore and Hong Kong) has always respected and observed the laws of the host country, including the Philippines,” he said.

Arroyo said Bangayan has asked him to file libel cases against those who tried to link him to the illegal importation of rice into the country.

Arroyo said even Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who has vowed to kill smugglers like David Tan who are operating in his city, said there is no Bangayan involved in the illegal shipment of rice in Mindanao.

Duterte said the Bangayans are a family of well-known businessmen in Davao who had never been involved in rice importations.

Arranza earlier claimed that Bangayan is indeed the same David Tan involved in rice smuggling.

To bolster his claim, Arranza said Bangayan was also the respondent in a 2005 civil case filed by Eric Ang, a Singaporean national and general manager of Resem Inc., for his alleged involvement in the shipment of used tires.

Arroyo said Arranza’s claims were “preposterous” just as he questioned the credibility of the FPI head.

“The case filed by Ang before the Calamba City Regional Trial Court on 13 July 2005 has long been dismissed. It is, in fact, Eric Ang who has an outstanding warrant of arrest against him for perjury, on top of other pending cases for estafa in various courts in Manila,” Arroyo said.

Arroyo also lamented that De Lima appeared to have believed Arranza’s claim, with her announcement on Monday that “David Tan” and David Bangayan are one and the same.

De Lima said based on their investigation, Bangayan is a Filipino-Chinese from Davao, but Arroyo said his client is not from Davao.

“David Tan” has been described as the top financier of at least 26 cooperatives involved in rice importation for the National Food Authority.

Arroyo, however, stressed that the reputation of Bangayan’s group of companies speaks for itself, being the only scrap exporters with in-house world-class laboratory and are affiliated with the International Scrap Recycling Institute USA (ISRI); Bureau of International Recycling (BIR); China Non-ferrous Metal Recycling Association (CNMRA); Singapore Business Federation; Apex Business Licensed and a Registered AQSIQ China exporter.

As this developed, the Customs bureau said it is currently investigating at least 25 importers suspected to be involved in technical smuggling, such as misdeclaration, undervaluation and misclassification of goods.

But Customs officials refused to reveal the names of the consignees and declined to mention if the consignees being used by Tan were included in the watch list.

Customs officials said unscrupulous traders use dummies, fictitious addresses and non-existent firms to avoid liabilities. They said in their many seizures of illegally imported goods, the agency encountered some of these importers to be non-existent, although accredited with the agency.

The Customs has put on hold the release of more than 1,937 container vans loaded with rice worth more than P720 million. The shipments arrived at the ports of Manila, Davao and Manila International Container Ports on separate dates from October to December last year.

The government incurs losses of up to P100 billion yearly from technical smuggling. With Joel Zurbano



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