The Department of Agriculture (DA) is urging the Department of Justice (DOJ) to speed up the prosecution of cases involving smuggling of agricultural products into the local market.
“We want the process to be faster to set an example and to discourage this (smuggling) because the government suffers substantial revenue losses, while the impact is greater on our farmers,” Adriano said during the Laging Handa virtual briefing in Malacanang.
Meanwhile, Congress is looking into the smuggling of agricultural products in the country, with high-profile personalities supposedly involved in illegal trade.
During a Senate hearing earlier this month, Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said he received information naming four alleged vegetable smugglers.
[The DOJ needs to step up the prosecution process processing and fast-track it. We are trying to lobby, to advocate to the DOJ to make the process much faster,” Adriano said.
Sotto on Sunday disclosed that the National Intelligence Coordination Agency (NICA) would submit the names of suspected smugglers of agricultural products.
Sotto, who is running for vice president in the May 9 elections, said he was informed by NICA they would release the names on April 28 following their meeting the day before.
During the last Senate Committee of the Whole hearing, Sotto tagged four individuals as the alleged brains behind the smuggling of agricultural products.
He identified them as Manuel Tan, who supposedly operates in the freeports of Subic, Cagayan de Oro (CDO), and Batangas; Andrew Chang, who allegedly operates in Subic, the Manila International Container Port (MICP), Port of Manila (POM), and Batangas; Luz/Lea Cruz, the so-called “onion queen” who operates in Subic, MICP, and CDO; and Jun Diamante who allegedly specialized in the smuggling of fish through the CDO port.
The names of the four suspects, Sotto said, were given to him by a whistleblower who described them as “well-versed” in the importation processes and familiar with the DA and the Bureau of Customs.
Sotto said he would recommend the filing of criminal charges against the suspects if NICA failed to provide the names of the influential persons coddling the smugglers, believed to be politicians.
NICA director Edsel Batalla of the Sub-Task Group on economic Intelligence (STG-EI), said the names of the four suspects were already in their watch list.
Aside from the four, Batalla also said there were more than 20 individuals, including the so-called “protectors” who were on their list, but added they were still validating the information. Customs chief Rey Leonardo Guerrero also said he was familiar with some of the names disclosed by Sotto.
The Senate Committee of the Whole was looking at the proliferation of smuggled agricultural products in the country. It is also digging into the alleged involvement some personnel of the Bureau of Customs in the illegal activities.
Last week, Sotto told a media forum that they have the names of the “untouchables” involved in vegetable smuggling from China.
“This is the third hearing already and we would like to come up with a committee report as soon as possible. Even while we campaign, we’re trying to squeeze time for this is part of our job and so that the Ombudsman can look into the matters at hand,” he said.
Sotto said they would invoke parliamentary immunity in case they were fed with the wrong names.
During the second hearing of the Committee of the Whole on March 28, Agot Balanoy, spokesman the League of Associations at the La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Post public relations officer said they are incurring huge losses due to rampant smuggling.
“Our regular daily order of carrots declined by up to 40 percent or equivalent to P2.5 million per day since last year. Retailers and consumers now prefer to buy smuggled carrots from China,” Balonoy said.
United Broiler Raisers Association president Elias Jose Inciong also accused the DA of being “pro importation.” With GMANEWS