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Friday, December 8, 2023

Addressing agri sabotage

The ball is now in the halls of the Senate.

This, after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. certified as urgent the bill redefining and imposing stiffer penalties against crimes of agricultural sabotage.

In a statement, Communications Secretary Cheloy Garafil confirmed Mr. Marcos certified as urgent, in a letter to Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, the approval of Senate Bill 2432, a measure that defines the crimes of agricultural economic sabotage.

The President underlined the need for the immediate enactment of SB 2432 “to promote the productivity of the agriculture sector, protect farmers and fisherfolk from unscrupulous traders and importers, and ensure reasonable and affordable prices of agricultural and fishery products for consumers.”

The Chief Executive had lamented the country is now beset by rising prices and shortages in agricultural products, “partly due to the nefarious acts of smuggling. hoarding, profiteering, and cartel.”

The bill, now pending in the Senate during interpellation period, is among the expanded Common Legislative Agenda discussed during the third Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council meeting at Malacañang earlier this week.

A Technical Working Group is finalizing the version of the House of Representatives.

Malacanang has said the bill, which would repeal the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016, aims to impose severe sanctions on the nefarious acts of smuggling, hoarding, profiteering, and cartel of agricultural and fishery products.

The sanctions include a penalty of life imprisonment and a fine thrice the value of the agricultural and fishery products subject of the crime as economic sabotage.

But what are the acts punished by the bill?

Under the bill, the acts of agricultural smuggling, hoarding, profiteering and cartel as economic sabotage are committed when the value of each agricultural and fishery product subject of the crime is at least P1 million, using the Daily Price Index, under Section 19 of the proposed law, computed at the time the crime was committed.

The measure also creates an Anti-Agricultural Economic Sabotage Council headed by the President or his designated permanent representative to ensure the proper and effective implementation of the proposed law.

The council will have the power to direct speedy investigation and prosecution of all violators, as well as freeze the violators’ funds, properties, bank deposits, placements, trust accounts, assets and records.

Malacanang noted any government officer or employee found to be an accomplice in the commission of the crime will “suffer the additional penalties of perpetual disqualification from holding public office, exercising the right to vote, from participating in any public election, and forfeiture of employment monetary and financial benefits.”

“When the offender is a juridical person, criminal liability shall be attached to all officers who participated in the decision that led to the commission of the crime, with a penalty of perpetual absolute disqualification to engage in any business involving importation, transportation, storage and warehousing, and domestic trade of agricultural and fishery products,” according to Garafil.

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